When “Self-Care” Wears a Mask

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Self-care didn’t need COVID to wear a mask with me. I know many people are going to disagree with this, perhaps my personal trainer friends especially, but it’s true for me, doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone. So, I digress…

The amount of time I used to think about food blows my mind. I used to wonder what on earth I would do if I didn’t spend my time so focused on food and workouts, the constant meal prepping for my 6 meals a day to ensure there wouldn’t be a single moment I would feel hungry. Feeling guilty about eating, not eating, binge-eating, eating too little, Keto, Whole30, counting macros, micros, blah blah blah. I truly did not know what it was like to be in and trust my own body.

via GIPHY

I didn’t realize it yet, but this obsession of mine was my coping mechanism. Between food and work I didn’t give myself room for much of anything else.

My first wake up call was when I went on my first retreat. I packed a crap ton of protein bars to ensure I would not go hungry and get my sufficient protein count in. My meals at the retreat would be all taken care of and I wouldn’t have to worry about planning a thing. What a relief right?

Wrong.

This was utterly terrifying to me. I wasn’t going to be in control of my meals? I almost didn’t go because of this.

The real wake up call was a simple question that was posed to me in the group on the first day that I will never forget. Around the circle we went, introducing ourselves and answering this simple question, “What lights you up? “What do you love doing?” A simple question, but when it came to be my turn, I drew a blank. My eyes began to well up. I could feel the lump rising in my throat. I couldn’t find the words. This was the moment I knew something needed to change.

I was so busy distracting myself with my own “healthy habits” and from what I thought at the time as my optimal self-care routine, going through the motions, meal planning, workouts, hot yoga, I had completely disconnected from my body, the part of me that was connected to the essence, vitality, and enthusiasm that life was waiting for me to soak in.

There is nothing inherently wrong with meal-prepping, the gym, hot yoga, counting macros, BUT, when it’s consistently disguised as a coping mechanism and tool for distraction, things get messy. Only you can honestly answer this one for yourself.

  • Is your self-care routine still serving you?

  • Is it helping you connect more deeply with your physical, mental, emotional body or doing the opposite?

Here’s the thing, in order to connect to what I truly LOVED deep inside myself, I had to be willing to feel the not so pleasant things of life, the FULL range of emotions with full acceptance.

“In order to have more self-expression, we must first have a self to express” – Julia Cameron

How can we even begin to live our lives to its greatest expression if we’re constantly distracting ourselves from our own self? 🤔

I had unconsciously been cutting myself off from an entire part of myself that lay dormant in my emotional body. This resulted in cutting myself off from what I loved, inner-joy, passion, and the abundance of life that was literally WAITING to express itself through me. From the outside looking in this was not obvious. I showed up to my work day fairly happy, most days in good spirits. This level of disconnection was far below the surface.

4 years later, Im living life with more uncertainty than I could have ever handled before. I spend my time completely immersed in content that I am deeply passionate about, immersed in work that allows me to share my gifts and actually impacts people deeply. Ive been on ridiculous adventures, met and developed deep friendships with inspiring people all over the world, eaten chocolate croissants in Paris with NO SHAME, talked to God while drinking plant medicine from the Amazon, made amends and actually befriended my body, found a beautiful relationship with food which I hardly think twice about anymore, learned to trust myself again, healed more wounds than I probably even knew existed, and found a vitality and confidence within myself I didn’t know existed.

Still a work in progress FO SHO, but my God I’ve come a long way.

I write this to share that this was so obviously not about my dis-ordered relationship with food or my body image. While that played a factor, it was not the root cause. 4 years ago I was terrified of uncertainty, of losing control, of being hungry, of straying from my meal plan, my life plan, of what would happen if I truly felt what I had been blocking myself from feeling.

I didn’t have a food problem, I had a feeling problem.

At some point in my earlier years I had decided, feeling was not safe and my nervous system said, “You got it babe, protection mode on.” (Another story for another day)

Re-teaching ourselves how to feel is CRITICAL to every single part of our well-being. EVERY SINGLE PART.

“But Bishop! I think my way out of feelings all of the time, and it’s usually pretty productive so ha!”

Short term maybe, and that is a very hesitant maybe, and long term, you bet your butt those puppies stack up in your body over time like your parent’s storage unit. Emotional hoarding. Yep, that was me…

Guess what, when emotions are not expressed and acknowledged in your body, they manifest as disease, cancer, you name it. And this is not some woo woo philosophy or something I think, this is scientifically proven. Read, The Body Keep’s Score, The Anatomy of Illness, and really any of Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work for more on this.

Several years later at a ripe age of 25 years old I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Completely disconnected from the fact I wasn’t willing to feel and express certain emotions throughout my entire life? Not likely.

I still catch myself avoiding feelings, and it’s not always so easy to catch. We can be so sneaky with ourselves when it comes to our various coping mechanisms. Many times they are disguised as seemingly positive habits, like self-care routines or general self improvement. Today mine disguise themselves as over intellectualizing.

I know a lot of personal development, inner-workaholics like me out there who struggle with this too, constantly looking for answers in books, podcasts, psychoanalyzing their way out of feeling.

Information is not wisdom.

Too much of a good thing is absolutely NOT a good thing. The personal development world also has its shadow side and can be a sneaky coping mechanism providing a very false sense of security. Looking for answers by endlessly seeking more knowledge in order to feel more secure in yourself. Yeahhhhh…hello, hi, me again.

Instead of learning to be at peace and accept uncomfortable emotions when they arise, such as loneliness, fear, anger, I intellectualize them versus feel them.

BUT BUT BUT, I have progressed immensely and through consistent mindfulness and meditation practice I’m so much quicker to catch my own sneakiness! (Silent round of applause) 👏

Meditation might seem boring to people, it did to me at first too, but damn if it doesn’t help you see through the bullshit of your own mind.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, its time to stop emotional hoarding and start feeling…

Your emotional body is not your parent’s storage unit.

Are you mindlessly going through your self-care routine? Are you willing to be radically honest

about what is true and emerging for you each day in your body, mind, and spirit?

I believe waking up to our various coping mechanisms, re-learning to feel again, and re-training our nervous system, is the door to everything we want in our individual and collective lives.

For some tools to help guide you through synching and aligning with your emotional body, I created a 10 minute guided meditation and breathing exercise I use with clients and in my own practice.

🎧 Give it a go here if you’re up for it!

Feel those feelings like your life depends on it, because it does.

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