5 Setps to Take Back Ownership Over Your Life
The start of life is out of our control. No one gets to choose who their parents are, what year they are born, or where they grow up. However, those things don’t have to dictate how your story unfolds. YOU determine who you are and what your story is going to be.
OWN YOUR ACTIONS
Have you ever blamed the people or things around you when something wasn’t working out the way you wanted it to? Well, I’m 100% certain that we have all been there and done that at some point in our lives. I’m certainly not ashamed to say that I was that person for a long time. Instead of taking responsibility for my actions, I deflected and pushed the blame onto others and what was around me. I didn’t own who I was and what I did. It was easier that way.
Taking ownership is a powerful thing. Owning your actions and choices gives you the freedom to take charge of your own happiness. You are in control. When you blame others, you give away your power.
“Life doesn’t happen TO you. It happens BECAUSE of you.”
THE TIME IS NOW
As I continue to take ownership of my life and my choices, I want to welcome you to do the same. Stop blaming and start taking action. It doesn’t have to be significant. You don’t need to quit your job or leave your family-unless that is something you feel deep down you need to do. But stop waiting. Stop pointing your finger out at everyone else. Stop believing you have no say in what happens in your life.
Like Colin O’Brady (33), the first man to walk across Antarctica, it begins with a thought. Then a small step in the right direction and then having the mental strength to continue no matter what-step by step as you head towards your destination. Like Colin, we focus on that next step and not be overwhelmed by what lies ahead.
Here are 5 steps you can immediately put into practice to help take back and keep ownership over your life:
1. Get Quiet Every Single Day
Every day find time to get quite: no phone, no distractions, just you, your feelings, thoughts, and insights. Listen to what your mind and body are saying. Observe yourself. What do you notice? Getting quiet is a powerful practice, and many overlook it merely because it doesn’t feel like action. But this is where action steps evolve. (Check out how Hope gets quiet HERE)
2. Stop Blaming Other People and Things
When you blame others, you give away your power. Blaming is a self-protection mechanism. In my life experiences, we do so as a means not to have to face the truth we know. We may be feeling overwhelmed. We don’t or don’t know who to ask for the help we need. Or, like me, we were never taught how to take responsibility for our actions confidently. Stop blaming and ask yourself how I can take responsibility for this? Now that is an empowering statement.
3. Get Up and Move
We, humans, are designed to move. We are not a lion building up reserves by sleeping and resting 16-20 hours a day to run 50 mph, then to catch our prey. Research shows that sitting a lot is dangerous to our health. And even short bursts of movement: 1-minute here, 5-minutes there can be a big difference in your well-being here. Exercise can lead to greater self-control, and for me, it leads to me feeling better about myself, making me make better life choices.
4. Approach the Situation and Decide to Learn Something
When we step into a conversation or experience with ego, we lose the leverage to learn. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room all the time. And as Tony Robbins says, the second you are the most intelligent person in the room, you are in the wrong room. If you approach each opportunity with the mantra: “what can I learn from this”? You will shift from keeping yourself stuck and protected, to openness to grow.
5. Learn How to Say No
When we say “yes” to everyone else and everything else, we are saying no to ourselves. Now I am not saying if your child needs help with math and you want to Netflix and Chill, you should say no. But there are countless times throughout the day where we are saying “yes” out of habit. We don’t want to do it or shouldn’t do it, but we do. And then we pay the price. To not create overwhelm, start with simple things like I did. Saying no to the couch with my husband and yes to going for a walk-then R&R time with him. Saying no to adding a yoga class to the schedule just because someone is asking when I knew if I said yes, it would be too much. Do a quick daily self-reflection and take inventory to where you are saying “yes” and “no” and ask yourself if the scale is off.
YOU ARE IN CONTROL
It is a freeing feeling to be in charge of your life, and in my case, it was because that was not something I had experienced prior. It is vital to my wellness that every single day I like myself; that I love myself every single day. And when I don’t, I know the scales are off. And when I don’t, things need to change.
My life has been filled with some super deep, dark lows, fantastic highs, and everything in between. I’ve projected my own shortcomings onto other people. My self-sabotaging behavior has occurred more times than I’d care to admit. Worst of all, I rarely even realized I was doing it.
The truth is, I had become a master at standing in my own way.
Changing My Ways
Our personality and life experiences determine the ways we think and react. I grew up observing people in my life, blame, judge, and criticize those around them. So, naturally, that was the pattern I fell in to. It was easier to blame others than take ownership and responsibility for my own actions. However, at some point, I decided that I was in charge of my own journey.
Creating New Habits
Without realizing it, I had been living a life of self-sabotage. My negative ways of thinking and feeling were controlling my everyday life. Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t control, I decided that I had to focus on the most significant barrier in my life. It was the one that I had the most control over–myself.
Learning to get out of my own way and pivot was a process. It wasn’t easy. I had to dismantle the sole self-defense mechanism that I had been using my entire life and develop new ways of thinking. I decided that I was going to get something out of everything. I was going to learn from everything and always ask myself before I speak, type, or share: “How will this help me or others?”
This simple mindset shift helped me get out of my own way. It made me:
♥️ Swallow my pride.
♥️ Move forward and let things go–even when I didn’t want to.
♥️ Press on and keep on so I could move on.
If you worried you’re getting in your own way, too, here are my tips to help you overcome your old ways.
4 Ways to Get Out of Your Own Way and Pivot
Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing? Who benefits from what you are about to do or say? What value does it put back on life after such an engagement? Getting clear here will help you speak and begin to live more confidently.
1. Focus on What is Essential
It is easy to get distracted by things that don’t matter in life. Before you know it, that “thing” is consuming everything you are thinking about and everything you do. Every day, take a timeout minute and think about all the things, people, and experiences that make you grateful. Bonus- write them down. Doing so helps get your mind in the right frame of mind because nothing good comes from anger and hate.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
I know this can be challenging because we faced with unrealistic perfection in today’s world. Filters, edited life moments, what some call the “highlights reel” of someone’s life, makes the stress of not being enough can be overwhelming. A few years ago, I stopped looking at the tabloids and magazines in the checkout aisles. Why? Well, I realized that looking at celebrities’ perfect lives and bodies was giving me anxiety and pushing my mood and mind in a negative direction. So, I stopped looking at them. I limited social media scrolling and took time to notice trigger people, feeds, and posts. And I stay away.
3. Change the Script
There was a time in my life that I would look back on my life and only see struggles and unfair circumstances. When I recognized that I wanted to get well and didn’t want to be a spiraling out addict anymore, I started to change my internal script. Instead of seeing all the bad, that happened to me as a punishment. I began to look at it as learning things I needed to learn and preparing me for something bigger than me. I began to see the challenges as opportunities to help me. They helped me later connect with my audience, students, and friends and give perspective I would not have had without my unfair struggle.
4. Give Yourself a Timeout
I know there are mixed feelings about giving a time out. But timeouts can offer us a moment to breathe, feel, and process. Yes, I am that parent that uses timeouts with my kids. It’s not so much a punishment as it is a time to breathe, feel, and think. I approach those timeouts as moments where they can figure out what they are feeling, breathe, and calm down so we can have a conversation and communicate. Timeouts, when done correctly, can be helpful tools for all parties and can both teach and foster personal growth and self-control. As an adult, I have learned first hand the full value of stepping away and then using the timeout not to think negative thoughts. But to process the situation and how I feel.
The Choice Is Yours
Today, as you read this, I believe you have two choices. You can either continue to be wrapped up in your own story, your struggle, your fears, worry, jealously, and sadness OR you can GET OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY AND PIVOT.
No one but you can get you to move out of your own way. You are in charge of your own destiny. So, the choice is yours: Do You Want to Thrive or Survive?
Recovery from an eating disorder or any addiction can feel like an uphill battle. Admitting you need help is the first step. However, what comes after that is usually everyone around you telling you what you should do.
How you should act.
What you should or shouldn’t eat.
What you should stay away from.
What therapist you shouldn’t see.
What book you should read.
And for anyone who has been struggling with addiction, directives like that can surely trigger a relapse.
I struggled for years trying to step into recovery, only to find myself drowning in a sea of failure. The harder I tried, the more I felt like I was failing. Not meeting everyone’s expectations of what they think recovery should be like.
So I hid my progress, or should I say lack thereof. I felt like the fear of failure on top of being an addict was just too big to uncover. So I lied. I lied to everyone around me on and off for years that I was in-fact “better.”
I want to let you know that there is hope. You can do this. And it all starts with you deciding that you have had enough.
Coming to a place where the fear of judgment is outweighed by the fear of living with an eating disorder. A life cut short because this could eventually kill you. That was my greatest push. I didn’t want to live this way. I didn’t want a family, to be married with kids, living in secret, Living a lie. I didn’t realize it but I had observed addiction in my household growing up. I had observed co-dependency not knowing it. I took it on as “normal behavior.”
For a big part of my life, I didn’t think it was fair that I didn’t get a choice in the matter. But I wanted a choice for my kids, and the biggest truth… I didn’t want to die.
I believe that conventional wisdom may have your best interests at heart. But unless you have actually struggled with this kind of hell, seeking help itself, and then receiving it can be overwhelming. It’s a struggle all it’s own.
The following tips are my suggestions to consider as you work fully into recovery. What I did, what worked for me, and what I hope for you to consider so you can live the life you have always dreamed of.
1. Say It Out Loud
For years I couldn’t even get myself to say it out loud. That I had a problem and that I needed help. What I recognized is if I couldn’t even say it to myself, how was I going to say it to someone else? Today, look at yourself in the mirror. Look in your eyes and compassionately tell yourself “you can’t do this alone anymore, you need help. I have an addiction, and I deserve a future without this addiction”.
The first time I said this, I could barely get the words out. I was so ashamed. So afraid. But also so relieved. For several years I kept talking to myself in the mirror. So I could hear and see me. Eventually, those conversations turned into forgiveness, and conversations on how to move forward. Working to stay positive is essential. Try using affirmation exercises or mantras to help curb the negative inner voices.
2. Make A List
Addiction can make you short-sighted. It can, in the moment, leave you unable to see the future. It can also fog the past.
You weren’t always like this. You have also done a lot of great things. You are a good person, despite what your addiction mind says to you.
So today make a list of all the things you are good at. All your talents, gifts, and reasons why people love you. I had so many talents I wasn’t giving myself credit for. I was a great writer, amazing with kids, super creative, and later on, a pretty kick-ass yoga teacher. I had many gifts, but my addictive mind made seeing those things (especially in the heat of the moment) very challenging.
So make a list. Do not hold back. Everything you can think of. Even if in your head, mid-sentence your addictive mind says “that’s not true”. Don’t believe it.
Call this journaling. Or simply and officially putting out to the universe how you are an amazing person. Hang this list on your mirror and read it every day.
3. Allow Yourself to Feel Whatever You Feel
I was overwhelmed, and to be honest, I felt a lot of guilt. Part of addiction is guilt. Guilt for what you did or didn’t do. How you may have felt that things went a certain way because of you. And the overwhelming feeling of not being able to control them.
I had a lot of anger, frustration, and grief when I began to step into recovery. I was very angry with family members. And yes, very angry at myself. It appeared that everyone kept telling me to forgive this person, don’t blame that person. It’s not their fault.
But here’s the thing. I was not at a place in my recovery to be able to do that. I had spent 10 years perfecting the art of not feeling. Now I was beginning to feel all this stuff, and here are outsiders telling me that those feelings aren’t fair to others.
So I’m telling you as someone who has been there and made it successfully to the other side: Feel what you need to feel. Don’t attach to it. But give yourself permission to be pissed off. Mad. Happy. Sad. Angry. Whatever. Those are your feelings and you are entitled to them.
There will come a time when you are at a place where you can now do something with them. You have felt them enough. And now you don’t feel the need to have them. That will be the time to look at forgiveness, or releasing, or allowing yourself to see your situation with family or friends in a new light. But please know, it is okay to feel what you feel.
4. No One Expects That You Can Do This Alone
I had in my head for years that I needed to do this all by myself. And I was wrong. Not only does no one expects you to do this alone, but it is 100,000 times more difficult to do it all by yourself. I thought I had something to prove to myself, or my parents, or my husband. But the truth is, the only proving I needed to do was that I would do anything to get my life back.
So I am going to ask you what I asked myself, “How bad do you want it?” Once you decide that, everything becomes an option. I realized I could not do it anymore on my own. And that pushed me to a place where I finally opened up to my mom that I was not better, and needed help.
I cried when I told her this. I felt both humiliation and relief. I was free. Free from this life. Finally, I could really get better.
Sending myself to an out-patient treatment was the best decision in my recovery. I needed to be with others who were struggling like I was. But also I needed accountability, ideas, and a place to be honest. When you enter into specialized eating disorder treatment programs, the entire game can change for you. It did for me.
5. Buddy Up
I didn’t realize this until I entered into out-patient treatment, but having someone there that “gets you” and understands your situation without judgment was pivotal in my recovery success. I would come home from treatment and go back into my life. Although my family knew I was in treatment, it wasn’t like I could or even felt ready to open up about how I was feeling or when I was struggling.
Through outpatient treatment, I connected with a woman named April. At the time, we lived an hour apart, but that didn’t matter. She got me. And we made a pact to call each other when we were struggling. When it was hard. When we felt alone. When we just wanted to use food, or our additives to punish or run away. Calling her helped me step over hurdles that I struggled with for years.
Letting April into my life changed everything. It helped me feel safe. It reminded me that I wasn’t alone. I felt no judgment with her. I believe everyone needs a buddy, a sponsor, someone in their corner. Someone that is just there for you. That gets you. That has been in your EXACT shoes. I want to encourage you to find that.
6. Try Yoga
Yes, I am serious. I would not be here if it wasn’t for yoga. I found yoga before I found treatment for my eating disorder. And Yoga taught me how to feel. Yoga taught me how to be still. Yoga taught me how to be patient. Yoga taught me how to feel, and not be afraid of what I felt.
When I came to the out-patient treatment, I realized right away that I was further along than many of the women there. Not because I thought I was better than them. But because I had a different perspective. I had done quite a bit of work that I didn’t even realize prior to treatment.
I don’t suggest choosing yoga over treatment. But I do whole-heartedly believe that yoga can be the difference between making deep changes to truly live addiction-free and the lesser.
If you don’t choose yoga, choose something that asks you to be quiet. That challenges you to get uncomfortable in a safe place. Something that allows you to come as you are. That may mean shopping around for the right style or teacher. Now almost twenty years after embarking on my yoga journey, it still serves me. It still uncovers aspects of my addiction and recovery. I am so grateful to dig in because I have a lifelong toolbox I call yoga to help me.
Never Lose Hope
Despite all the obstacles and unfortunate circumstances that I was handed at an early age, I overcame them. Every time I was beaten down, I kept getting back up. I never lost hope. I never gave up. Deep down I always knew I could get through this.
Sometimes that voice was faint. That spark small. But even at my lowest of lows, I never lost hope. I believe that if you are alive and breathing on this earth, there is still a purpose for you. Your life still has value to contribute.
Today, it is because of trudging through addiction into recovery, overcoming the loss of my daughter, and facing adversity in my personal and professional life that I get to stand here and offer gratitude for my life. And at the same time help others find their light and develop tools to help them shine.
It’s the “how” and “why” I created the HOPE Process: Helping Others Purposefully Excel. How I built a toolbox of tools that actually work. I want that for you. I believe in you.
An eating disorder is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. But they are treatable, and there is hope. With the right tools, support and perspective on life you can do this. Everything I have created in my professional life is because of what I have been through. I am actually grateful for it.
Yes. You heard me.
The thousands of classes taught, trainings led, book and blogs written, and my newest program coupled with online coaching is all because of my journey.
Practices for a Positive and Productive Life Masterclass – All of these things are for people just like you. Because I know what it’s like to struggle. To feel like no one gets you. To feel like you just want to give up. Don’t give up. Never give up. Never lose hope.
Why? Because I am living proof that believing you are worth it, is worth it.
A Message From Hope
An eating disorder is a real and complex mental illness. It is something that no one should ever have to face alone. I 100% believe in every suggestion above. However receiving proper treatment from a qualified professional is above everything essential and necessary for your health, safety, and future. If you do not know where to reach out, orr if you cannot afford treatment, connect with National Eating Disorders Association Hotline for help.
I didn’t want to write this blog post. Not one bit. But I felt I needed to share some insight from someone who has struggled with mental health for most of her life.
If you could only see the look on my face right now, you would wonder what gives? What’s the deal? Why is it so hard to say that?
I do not accept this as my bill of health, or that this is my end game. I have mood swings, I have highs and lows, I have anxiety. Sometimes I don’t sleep well. For most of my life, I expressed my feelings by self-harming.
Does any person ever really want to say something like that to anyone, let alone the entire world?
The truth is, writing those words makes me feel broken. Like a young lamb incapable of fending for herself. And if you have ever met me in person, you would say emphatically that I am anything but an incapable little lamb.
But that’s just it.
Mental illness (there it is again, that pit in my stomach when I refer to myself with those words) is real and it’s not verbiage I like to throw around lightly. Why? Because I do not believe I am a victim of anything, and I do believe that I can live a happy life. I know I can. Because 98% of the time I am.
Maybe the cards were kind of stacked against me.
My father is one of the most hardworking men I have EVER met in my entire life. Someone who has done and seen things in his lifetime NO ONE would EVER choose to do or see. But there he was. And in some ways, he is my hero. In other ways…well, it’s complicated. But like me, he has had his own demons to face in this lifetime. I am pretty certain if I would even whisper “mental health” to him, the hairs on his back would stand up like a dog ready to attack.
As for me, I’m pretty sure I was in the boat before I even knew it. But in 1996, (I was 12 by the way) who was talking about mental health? Unless you were a PhD attending elite conferences far away from my Wisconsin hometown, you didn’t even know that existed. People with mental health issues lived in institutions with padded walls and were drugged to the point of walking zombies, right?
And I say that with slight humor, but that is my cover for the complete discomfort I still feel when I categorize myself as someone with mental health issues.
I wish I knew then, what I know now. Things may have been different.
I wish my parents would have been more comfortable and knowledgeable with dealing with a child with addiction, depression, and anxiety. But then they would had to have been more comfortable with their own confrontations with it as well.
I wish I would have understood more about what was going on inside me when I was 12, 14, 18. All the while, feeling alone, embarrassed, and judged.
But truly, I don’t want to change any of it. It’s my life. My story.
And maybe it doesn’t bother me quite as much as it used to because I’ve survived. I decided long ago to fight. To not just mask the issues, but uncover them, and start dealing with them.
I was chemically imbalanced and a holistic nutritionist helped me with that. I was low in just about every single vital nutrient, thanks to an eating disorder, and I got help.
I ate my feelings for more than a decade, and I got help with that.
Talking about my feelings, expressing my feelings, or just feeling anything was scary to me. And I got help with that.
I lost a friend two years ago who she struggled with mental health as well. Something she said to me years before has always stuck with me. “Hope, I can’t go get help, because it will be in my file, and I might then lose my job”. Be that true or not. It was true to her. And as a result, she didn’t feel she could get the help she needed when she wanted… she passed from drug-use two years ago.
What if she had felt comfortable enough to get help?
What if she had felt safe enough to share her struggles?
What if she would have felt mental health was as easy to care for as a broken bone? Or as accepted as seeking cancer treatment?
I will never know that answer.
But I do know help is available. And it is VITAL. Let me say that again. It is VITAL that you reach out. Those uncomfortable feelings you feel just thinking about reaching out won’t last.
See your mental health as a priority. Not as a silly stigma.
Talk to your partner about your struggles. Let them in. Do not be embarrassed about seeking out a therapist. Everyone can benefit from an outside perspective and sound advice.
Support others on their journey. They may not be ready to talk about their struggles or concerns with you. And they may never be, but support them by simply holding a space of safety for them by learning what the warning signs are that they may be struggling. By giving them room to breathe and letting them know you are there with a card, a text, or a call.
And if you are feeling like you need the care yourself, then do not hesitate. The world needs you. You have something amazing to offer and this one moment is a part of that amazing journey unfolding.
We all have to take care of our health: physically, emotionally and mentally. And let this be a gentle reminder that there is help out there. I’m living proof it works.
For More Information about Mental Health, check out these articles:
Mental Health and Parenting: What No One is Talking About
6 Simple Self-Help & Recovery Tips for an Eating Disorder
Mindful Ways to Reduce Stress
Ground Yourself by Coming Into Your Root Chakra
Depression | Recognizing Depression, Causes and Treatments
This was originally published for Thrive Global on May 28, 2019.