Self-esteem Challenge: Day 9

This blog challenge was developed by If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 9:
Something that you yourself do that makes you smile. Why?
Do you have genuine respect for yourself and who you are as an individual? and if not, how can you change that?

I work with older adults. It’s primarily because they are losing their sight, but when I meet with them, it’s not all about eye tests and my research. We have conversations. I answer all their questions and ask them about themselves. I hear about their past, their families, what they are up to and what they worry about. Most of them enjoy their appointment with me and even the ones that start out grumpy leave content. They usually thank me profusely. I’ve had a few dinner invitations and lunch break offers, lol. Maybe I make them feel important because they get to talk about themselves. Or maybe it’s just having someone to talk to that makes them happy. A lot of them live alone or their family lives far away. Anyway, knowing that they are happy, makes me smile. I think it’s time well spent.

Looking up the definition of self-respect gives me this: “pride and confidence in oneself; a feeling that one is behaving with honor and dignity.” I have some self-respect. I try to conduct myself with dignity and honour, but as for being proud and confident in myself? Nope and nope. My last session with psych was all about my self-worth and how I let it be determined by other people’s opinion of me. I am also guilty of making myself feel inadequate by comparing myself to everyone else. Apparently, I can get better respect for myself by getting to know myself better. Psych asked me to figure out what was most important to me. The answer came right away, I want everyone to think highly of me. I knew right away that was a bad answer. I need to figure out what is important to me independent of other people. I need to come to terms with not being able to do everything and do it all perfectly. I can’t be the best writer, the best presenter, well read, the best researcher, a good mentor, an organized lab manager, the perfect housewife, the best friend, an efficient academic, a size zero with great muscle tone, a good volunteer, a healthy cook, a good cat-mom and have a spotless home. Am I right to think that expecting all of this is unreasonable or am I just not working hard enough? If this is unreasonable, how do I learn to be ok with being less? As you can see, this is a work in progress.

self-respect is power quote

Cake Binge

I like food too much. I rely on sweets, cake in particular, wayyy too much. Cake is what I want when I feel down or have had a stressful day. Cake is what I want to celebrate reaching the end of something or accomplishing something difficult. Is it weird that the answer to everything, good or bad is cake? I want it even when I’m bored. Especially now that I’m watching my calories, I think about food constantly and the urge to binge on sweets of all kinds is really strong. If I hold out and don’t binge, the urge gets stronger, but if I give in and have a piece of cake, I’m afraid I wont be able to stop myself from eating the whole thing. Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who get sick from having too much sugar or dessert that’s too rich. I’m not though. My stomach can handle endless amounts of it.

I love cake

I wish there were more dessert restaurants around here. I think that would help me with portion control. I could go out, pay to have one piece of cake and be done with it. No leftovers to worry about. All the dessert restaurants have slowly closed since I’ve move here though, even the grocery store has stopped making my favourite little treat. It seems like the only way to get my fix is to buy a whole cake these days.

I know eating is addictive. Sugar especially, activates the same dopamine reward pathway in the brain as many addictive drugs. Low levels of serotonin and dopamine, as is the case in depression, can lead to compulsive behaviour, like a binge. The medications I am on are meant to increase dopamine and serotonin. When I don’t take my meds, I end up eating even more. Also, studies have shown that people with stress or anxiety are more prone to reward-seeking behaviour. They end up losing perspective, prioritizing the reward over the regret they’ll feel later. This is definitely me!

Why can’t I stop? I know binge eating is bad for my health and my appearance. Just knowing that should be enough to deter me, but it’s not. What would my fat say if it could talk? How is binge eating helping me? If I were eating for good reasons, what would they be? I know, it’s stupid. There are no good reasons for eating like this. Life would be better without fat and binges. The parts of life that would improve if I dropped to 120lbs are not the parts that keep eating cake. But, if I keep doing something, then there must be a benefit to it, otherwise there would be no reason to do it, right?

I don’t think I’ll be able to stop until I find out what my reason for eating is. What am I trying to fix by eating? Maybe I am trying to get more joy out of life. Eating is something I have to make time for anyway, so I eat junk hoping to fit more joy into my schedule. My time is precious and I feel like I have so much to do that I need to use my time wisely, be productive. Doing something simply for the joy of it is not an option. That’s selfish and inefficient. So I turn eating, something I have to do to survive, into something that gives me joy. This links back to sugar activating the dopamine pathway in the brain which creates the feeling of joy. It also creates the addiction, which just perpetuates the cycle.

Does this make sense at all? It would mean in order to stop eating so much I would have to find a different source of joy. What do you do to to bring yourself joy or make yourself feel rewarded?

Motivation Strategies

Yesterday I talked about depression versus laziness. You can read the details here. They are not the same. My theory is that people who are lazy have trouble with self-discipline, they put what they want to do over what they should do. I know people like this and they are perfectly content to do things this way. People with depression on the other hand, know what they should do and put that first, but lack the motivation to do it. For me, this applies to chores as well as the things I enjoy. This theory makes sense to me because depression is a disorder that messes with your ability to feel your emotions. Motivation is driven by emotion and if your emotions don’t work properly, well you see the connection.

eye of the tiger

The Eye of the Tiger

My motivation has hit an all-time low, I’ve lost my “eye of the tiger” so to speak. Having my routine strategy is impossible with my supervisor, so I’m looking into new strategies to get myself to keep going. These are some of the ones I’ve found.

  1. Chart Your progress. If exercise is your goal, you could do a training log. This allows you to look back and see how far you’ve come. You can put a check for every day you worked out and an X for those you didn’t. Making the check mark should make you proud. That will motivate you to keep going. A quick way to visualize progress, I like that idea. I’d need a chart for every goal though…that’s a lot of charts.
  2. Hold Yourself Back. When starting something I tend to go all out, then burn out. I need to pace myself with my goals to maintain motivation and interest over time.
  3. Join a Focus Group. I can see how this would be a good idea. You meet people with similar goals and you report your progress. It’s moral support, but also a way to make yourself accountable. I find it hard to get motivated when the results are just for me. If there is a whole group of people waiting to hear my progress, I’ll be more likely to get in gear.
  4. Visualize. I’m already doing this, I have an empty frame waiting for my Ph.D. diploma. You could put your running shoes by the door to encourage you to go for a walk or put the healthy snacks at the front of the fridge so you’ll be more likely to grab those.
  5. Get a Goal Buddy. I get it, you push and encourage each other. I guess it creates a bit of friendly competition too.
  6. Just Get Started. This is so true. Some days it’s just too hard and I think about how hard it is going to be. Instead of dwelling on it, I should just get started or plan to do 5 minutes. Once I start it never turns out to be as hard as I thought it was going to be.
  7. Think Positive. Negative self-talk is a huge de-motivator! Why bother trying when you know you’re going to fail, right? I really need to be more aware and catch my distorted thoughts.
  8. Keep a Daily Journal. Record the tasks you’ve completed and the ones you still have to do. Seeing how much you are accomplishing can propel you forward.
  9. Make it a Pleasure. If it seems like hard work, make it a treat. Re-frame the goal as something you want to do instead of what you should do. I will cook dinner tonight because I will save money and eat healthier. This will make me feel better tomorrow. That could work.
  10. Be Patient. Learn to be happy with progress. Changes will not happen overnight. I REALLY need to work on this!
  11. Break it Down. Getting overwhelmed kills your motivation. Break a single goal into smaller manageable pieces. It will reduce stress and you’ll be more likely to get started. I need to apply this one to work.
  12. Reward Yourself Often. Make sure to acknowledge each milestone. Having something to look forward to is motivating. This will work for some people, but I’m a bit stumped for myself. I shouldn’t rely on edible treats because I’m trying to lose weight and I can’t spend money because I’m a poor student. What does that leave me with?
  13. Find Inspiration. It can be from anywhere; blogs, stories, forums, friends,family, quotes, music, photos, people you meet or hear about. This I already do. I look for motivational quotes on Pinterest when I feel like I can’t do anything.
  14. Get a Coach/Take a Class. Putting money towards your goal helps you hold yourself accountable. This wont work for me right now, no spending!!
  15. Have Good Reasons. Write down your reasons to remind yourself or do it for someone you love. It’s often easier to get going when you are doing it for someone else. This one will probably work for me.
  16. Envision Success. Daydream about finishing your goal. How will you feel? Who will be proud? How will you celebrate? What will you wear? My imagination hasn’t been great lately, I don’t think this one will work for me.
  17. Beware of Your Urges to Quit. This is good! I’ll make a tally of all the times I want to quit, noting why, when and where. Figuring out my triggers will allow me to anticipate them and figure out a plan to avoid them.
  18. Never Skip More Than 2 Days in a Row. Falling out of a habit means starting all over again, which can be really hard. I can see how this would apply to exercise, but what about work? I am not giving up my long weekends!

I’m going to give some of these a try. If anyone has any more suggestions for my list, I’m all ears!


Gratification for Surviving the Day

I often feel like I need something to look forward to get through things. I used to get really depressed during exam period in undergrad. To get through all the monotonous studying I’d pick a TV show to look forward to. If I did some good solid studying during the day, I’d stop and watch the TV show at night. I was lucky my folks had enough channels that there was always something interesting on.

I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, my daily tasks have gotten bigger and bigger. Three weeks of solid studying for exams is tough by most standards, but now, getting out of bed is hard, going to work is hard, making a meal is hard. Things that I took for granted before have become daunting tasks that I need to have a reason for doing. Most of the time I rely on logic to get things done. I get out of bed because nothing will get done otherwise. I go to work because I want to finish my Ph.D. I make meals because I’ll feel sick if I don’t eat. Logic doesn’t give me much pleasure though.

My basket of rewards has gotten smaller over the years too. TV shows no longer interest me very much and they don’t feel like much of a reward after a daunting task. For a while, I was putting money aside. For everyday that I participated in and didn’t hide, I’d put a little bit of money away. Eventually I’d have enough to buy myself something I wanted. That worked until I started my Ph.D. Now there is no money.

Lately I’ve turned to sweets as a reward. I get one of those giant cupcakes I mentioned in an earlier post once a week. They are only a few bucks or if things are too tight, I can persuade myself to bake. But now, not only am I gaining weight, but once a week isn’t quite enough. I need a new reward. I’ve thought about trying drawing as a reward, but I already use that as an outlet for stress and a way to recharge my batteries. I can’t really deny myself my drawing time if I don’t participate in life for some reason. Any suggestions?

What do you look forward to? What do you use to treat yourself? Or to bribe yourself to get moving?

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