The reason that weight loss is such a transformative journey is because you can’t escape yourself. You are left alone with your thoughts and everything that you let come into your mind influences how you feel – both physically and emotionally.
This often influences how you act and the decisions you make.
What’s popular in our culture is to focus on the “exterior” — appearance, weight, skin, cellulite, wrinkles but it’s far less popular to delve into the “inner” stuff, your feelings.
Yet your feelings make up so much of who you are and why you do the things that you do.
Do you only feel comfortable with “good” feelings – you know, joy, excitement, happiness? What do you do with the harder ones, things like sadness, anger, disappointment, loneliness, resentment?
Most women push their feelings down. In fact, this whole episode started by me writing a post and suggesting that feeling your feelings was the *most* important thing you could learn how to do. Otherwise, they stay trapped inside of you, keeping you stuck.
Do you push your feelings aside and use your intellect to try and cope with your feelings? You know that doesn’t work.
In this episode you will…
- Realize how important it is to separate your value from your accomplishments
- Recognize how weight loss is intimately connected to your core suppressed feelings
- Learn how you’ve picked people in your life to help you grow and heal – even if it feels like they mostly challenge you
- Be able to understand if and where you are blocked and how to move through that so you can finally feel confident in your ability to succeed with your health goals
- Understand how detrimental it is to withdraw and isolate yourself, yet so many women do this.
This is one of my most personal podcast episodes to date. I’d love it if you could share in the comments below what you thought about it.
- Post I mention at start of the episode: How do you handle heartbreak?
- List of Feeling Words courtesy of The Center for School Transformation
- Get my free e-book here: 5 Ways to Outsmart Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Today
Transformation Requires Courage: It Starts With Feeling Your Feelings [Full Text]
Jen: Hi there. Thank you for tuning back in to another Energy to Thrive Podcast episode. You know, about a month ago I posted this exact thing on Facebook. I’m going to read it to you and a couple of the comments that I got from it, because that’s what’s inspiring this podcast episode today.
Here’s what I asked: How do you deal with heartbreak? The kind that comes from the grief of broken promises, lies, and betrayal. Me? I used to drink wine or eat or make myself so incredibly busy I didn’t have time to feel. Now, I feel it all. The pain, the rage, the loss, the discomfort of not knowing. Before, I would just swallow it all up. I’d shove those feelings so deep down inside because I couldn’t stand to feel them.
It hurts to feel them. It makes you question everything you thought you knew, and that’s hard. But pushing them down? Well, that’s how bitterness and resentment grows. It’s not healthy. Those feelings need to get out or they stay trapped inside you. Neither is trying to bypass the process of feeling, which is so incredibly necessary if you want to heal.
So my advice? Feel everything. Only then, once you’ve dealt with the tsunami of emotions rolling around in you, can you begin to catch your breath.
I said I felt like a blog post was coming on, but actually it was a podcast. Now, here’s what’s interesting. I’m going to share a couple of the comments with you.
One person – a friend of mine – wrote back saying: “If you don’t have the courage to feel it, you will never heal it.”
Someone else said: “I have no answers, but feeling all of the feelings is not something I know how to do. I hope to learn this.” Other people have said that it’s easier said than done, or it’s better to get those feelings out than to keep them in.
A past client and friend of mine said: “Feeling everything is overwhelming. And if you’re not prepared for the incredibly process, it’s normal to fall into depression. And then comes the addictions, which may include all of the above.”
What she’s talking about there is it could be anything, from drinking too much, eating too much, avoiding, procrastinating, gaming, drugs, sex, gambling – all sorts of things. She said, “I’ve worked with so many people who have experienced grief like we can’t even imagine. And it can hit you in so many ways.” It’s so true. It can.
What I want to talk about in this episode is, first of all, why is this important? If you are someone who does not know how to feel your feelings, why you need to and how to begin accessing them, and then how it’s actually connected to the inner/outer transformation. Let me just take you back a little bit in my life. I know some of you might know my story and some of you might not, but here goes.
For a long time, I got my value and my sense of worth from what I did, my accomplishments. Maybe you can relate. It was like the busier I was or the more certifications I got or the bigger the challenge, the better – especially if I accomplished it. I believed that somehow there’s value in the struggle, and that the harder and more full I made my life then the better I was.
My wake-up call probably began about 12 years ago, and it’s continued ever since. I would say I was someone who did not know how to feel my feelings. I had to learn. Because as a child when we’re taught about feelings, we’re often told what we should do.
You might even see this around you in grocery stores or in malls where the child is crying and the parent is saying, “Shh, shh, shh. There’s nothing wrong with you. Stop crying. Everything’s fine.” Literally, that emotional experience of the child is something that’s not fine. But now I’m being told to change my feeling because my feelings are not acceptable for the people who are around me.
This often gets reinforced throughout a lifetime of people in our family, the partners we choose, and then the patterns that we develop to deal and cope with our own feelings. Somehow in our world, it’s become acceptable to share the good feelings – the joy, the happiness, the excitement. But you need to hide the darker feelings, the “bad” feelings, which I don’t believe there’s any such thing.
You know, I remember having my little one, Jake, and he was really upset, he was young. One of his relatives said, “You should just put him in his room until he stops feeling that way.” I remember replying right back, “Actually, no. It’s my job to help him understand his feelings and be safe with them so that he can let them go.” Because the point is, our feelings will stay trapped inside us until we understand how we move them.
The biggest thing that I see with my clients right now are feelings that have become stuck – whether that’s anger, loneliness, bitterness, resentment, insecurity, lack of confidence, self-doubt, fear, worry, anxiety. And then what happens is we do all of these external things to try and deal with them, and the most culturally acceptable thing to do right now is then – guess what? It’s to focus on your weight. “Oh, well if I lose this 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 pounds, then I’m going to be happy and my life is going to be better.”
But it’s never that way. I know that because I’ve experienced it. I’ve lost over 35 pounds. That was six years ago. And a whole bunch of other things in my life had to change in order for me to find the happiness I so desired.
You see, your body is a vehicle for you to go through life with. That’s its purpose. And the better you treat it, the more you can honor it, the better vehicle you get to drive through life with.
Let’s talk about some of the core feelings: anger, sadness, happiness, anxiety, shame, fear. What happens now – and even think about the way you speak – is we don’t have a very good depth and breadth of description of our feelings. We use generic words; I feel fine. I feel good. I feel mad, glad. We don’t understand the nuances and the range of emotion that we can actually experience – anything that on the anger scale could be mild irritation or frustration all the way to hot, white rage. There’s a whole continuum of feeling in there.
The thing about feelings is that they all have a purpose. Anger. What I find is women often don’t know what to do with their anger. They’ve been taught that they should transform it into sadness. Have you ever noticed that you’ve been so sad or so mad but you cry? That used to be me. I did not know how to give anger a voice.
The thing about anger is you experience it when something is wronging you, whether it’s a value you have or a boundary that’s being crossed. If used well, anger can be a feeling that indicates something needs to change. It can be motivating. It can be the precipice for you taking action when there’s been procrastination.
Sadness can be around the grief of loss, the hurt, the pain. It can be so painful to feel all of the emotion around sadness, especially if it’s around betrayal, loss, broken promises. Often we will push our feelings aside and we’ll try to use our intellect to cope with the situation instead of just feeling the feelings. Cry. Scream. Do whatever it takes for that release.
If you think about it, when we laugh, when we’re happy and there’s laughter, that is a physical release and expression of the feeling of happiness. When somebody’s experiencing shame, we know with Brené Brown’s work nowadays that shame is one of the most painful feelings a human being can live with.
What I’ve seen when I’ve been feeling shame or when I’ve been around others who are experiencing it, there’s a desire to withdraw, to hide, to avert, to not want to be seen, to make yourself small and quiet. You don’t want to live like that. Anxiety. Fear. So much of it comes down to the belief system that is cultivated around who we are, our value, and our self-worth.
But that is an internal job. There will be no external circumstances in your life that will ever make you go, “Finally. I did it.” Right? “Now I’m there, I’m at the finish line. I’ve reached all of the benchmarks I’ve set for myself.” Because guess what? The minute that you get to something that you want, you set a new benchmark.
I have coached hundreds of women now, women in all kinds of professional fields with all kinds of accomplishments. Some who, from the outside, we would look at and be like, “Wow her life must just be so perfect.” But guess what? She still has her stuff, her deep personal stuff.
We all do. The problem is we don’t talk about it. We don’t share. I believe that in North America right now, women are living more isolated and there is such a strong lack of community around us now. Everything from we move away from our family of origins, we often move for jobs, we lack support. And the friends that we do make – friends are comfortable when things are good, but a lot of friends get very uncomfortable when things aren’t. They don’t know how to be there for you. They don’t know how to show up for you sometimes.
Perhaps you’re experiencing that as a friend. Maybe you’ve got someone in your life who’s going through a hard time and it’s hard for you to watch, it’s hard for you to see them in that place, and you don’t really know what to do. So you just kind of back away. And you don’t even do it intentionally.
I believe a massive wake-up call is needed if we want to change. So many women are wanting to change their weight, and that is the easiest thing to focus on because we think we can control our food or how we spend our time, like if we exercise. What seems far more difficult is the inner transformative work that is required to maintain that external transformation, and yet it’s the only way.
This is why diets don’t work. In your heart of hearts, listening to this, you know that. You may know that you’ve got your own inner work to do, but it’s easy to hide from it. It’s easy to distract yourself by getting really, really busy in life.
This can be no matter if you’ve got a career, if you’ve got a family, if you’re married, if you’re single – people will fill their plates, their days. The most common answer you get when you ask someone how are they doing, they say what? Busy. We are living busier, stressed out, disconnected lives where we don’t even know who we can trust and to share our own self with.
Then comes the whole challenge of if you do share how things are going, how you are truly, can the person that you’re talking to handle it? Can they stay present with you as you share the most vulnerable pieces of you? Often if it’s a close loved one, they can’t because they feel the need to defend or to reassure you or to make you feel better, and there’s this desire to sugar-glaze and honey-coat things.
There’s a desire for people to want to be fine. My acronym for fine, as you know, is effed-up inside, nice exterior. I believe that for so many women, if you haven’t been challenged by this yet, you may as you go into motherhood.
Motherhood can be one of the most transformative experiences of your life, if not the most. It starts from the minute you get pregnant to the birth of that baby and how that all unfolds, and the feelings you have around it. The mourning of a life you’ve left behind and this new life that’s so different. There’s no rule book on how to do it.
It can also happen with marriage. We believe in this dream of happy ever after. I sure did. It didn’t work out for me that way the first time.
You will pick people in your life to challenge you. You may not do it consciously. I truly believe that subconsciously, we go into relationships to expose old wounds or to help heal past hurts from our life. If it’s the right person, they will help you heal. If it’s the wrong person, the wound can get bigger.
So how does this all relate to what I’m an expert in? Because you can’t escape yourself. The reason that weight loss is such a transformative journey is that you cannot just give up food. And you can never escape yourself.
People can quit smoking because they can avoid cigarettes. They can quit drinking because they can avoid alcohol. They can stop gambling by changing one simple behavior and not go to a casino and have other coping mechanisms.
But you have to eat. You are, no matter what, you will be alone with your own thoughts. Your thoughts – everything that you let come into your mind – will influence how you feel. And what you feel is the place that generates your actions.
When you feel good, are you doing things that make you also feel good? Probably. When you think bad or harmful thoughts or toxic thoughts and it makes you feel crappy about yourself – that’s when you’re more likely to engage in more bad habits. Then it takes you to a different outcome. There’s vicious cycles that are created.
There’s the upswing cycle, where more good thinking creates better feelings, creates better actions, which creates happier outcomes, and the cycle just goes up. But it can be a spiral down, as well. At some point, I believe that we are getting whispers from – who knows – the Universe, energy, Mother Earth, whatever you want to call it. There are things happening in your life where there are nudges trying to guide you to waking up, to paying attention.
Sometimes we’re so busy we don’t pay attention, so the messages get louder and louder and louder until sometimes it feels like you’ve been knocked over the head by a 2×4. That could be a health crisis, some sort of health care. It could be a financial crisis. It could be something that happens at work or in your family. There’s a wake-up call of some sort. At that point, you have to choose. Am I going to pay attention or ignore it? Pay attention or ignore it? It’s always a choice.
It’s one of the reasons I believe so many women are experiencing personal health crises and deep dissatisfaction with their life. But, it’s almost like it takes courage to admit that. It takes courage to go, “Oh my god, I am totally failing at this parenting thing.” Or, “oh my god, my marriage is in trouble.” Or, “I hate what I do for a living and I am so afraid to change because I make good money.” Or, “I know the people in my life that are my family are actually not that nice or they’re harmful. They’re thinking is challenging me. What do I do about that?”
Right now, women suck it up, they push it down. I make this analogy for many of my clients: It’s like having a champagne bottle in your chest. When something happens, we’ve been taught to just deal with it, suck it up, don’t worry about it. Just make everything fine. Put on a happy face, whatever. We shove all of this stuff down inside us, put the cork on. But eventually that cork blows off and that’s when the tsunami of emotion can hit.
My advice is: wherever you are in life right now, take good stock. There will never be a better time than right now to start paying attention to the most important person in your world, and that’s you. You have got to be willing to take care of your own mental, emotional, physical health, just like you would be willing to care for that of another.
That’s the problem for so many women. We will give and give and give and give and care for all of these other people and things and responsibilities while totally indulging in self-neglect. And then, over a decade or two – I talk to women who’ve done this. That’s when they are carrying 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 extra pounds. They can’t even explain how it happened. But they do know, just like you might know.
I believe that getting real with yourself will be the most bold, courageous act you can ever engage in. Literally, it can mean taking a sheet of paper out and just free journaling: How am I feeling about my life? Where is it hard? What’s working well for me? Where does my joy come from? What do I wish there was more of? And seeing what you write. Do you have an inner-knowing? Has there been something that’s been kind of gnawing at you, a gentle awareness that’s been creeping in that you’ve been pushing aside?
See, the thing is, if you aren’t willing to feel it, you won’t heal it. The other thing that you have to know, too, is the minute you engage in this wake-up process, healing is very much a repetitive process. What you thought you may have healed when you’re 20 or 25 or 30 will come up again when you’re 40 or 45 and trying to heal something new and fresh in your life, because trauma is stored in your body.
Hurt can be stored in your body at the cellular level, and it gets woken up again. So then as the version of the woman that you are now, you have to almost go back to that and almost engage in the new lessons and the new understandings that you get or gain from that painful experience that you went through at 16, 24, 32, 41, whatever the ages are that you’ve experienced trauma in your life.
We can focus our attention on eating kale and drinking green smoothies and getting more protein and hydrating until we’re blue in the face. We can try to white-knuckle and muscle through ridiculous workout routines. And we can keep the focus on the external. But you know if you’ve done any kind of diet like that or engaged in any kind of extreme measure that you don’t have the energy to sustain it. They are unrealistic. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to live like that forever. Instead, the deeper work needs to be done.
For the one person who wrote on that Facebook post – and I’ll put a link to it on the show notes which you can get to by going to JenniferPowter.com/012/. The person who said: “I don’t know how to feel my feelings. I don’t know how to do that.” You’ve got to start gaining awareness of asking yourself, “What do I feel right now? How am I feeling right now? What’s going on for me right now?”
Because often there can be something going on for us, and then you know what we do? “I feel like something to eat.” Right? We want to use food to soothe that feeling or some Chardonnay or Shiraz to take the edge of the feeling away.
When you do that day in and day out, your poor little body – it’s a scientific body. The physiological processes are at play all the time, and it cannot help but take the food or the drink that you consume to soothe feelings and convert it and store it as fat. It’s just simply what your body does. Not because something’s wrong with you.
I will never forget my own personal wake-up call and the choice. It literally felt like I was staring at two paths: continue as I am and definitely know the destination is nowhere good, or choose to change. The thing that’s crazy about this is that people think that change takes energy. But what I want you to get is staying stuck takes energy too. It takes emotional energy to constantly feel frustrated, to lack confidence, to wish for more, to want more, and to feel like you can’t have it.
Yes, choosing change you are going to face all sorts of inner demons, so to speak. You are going to face your insecurities. You are going to experience vulnerability. You will wonder if you can. You will experience self-doubt, second-guessing, questioning. And that is why so many of those little mantra and sayings say everything you want is just on the other side of fear. You have to have the courage to go through it.
That’s where deep faith and a vision for who you want to be and the life you want to have, that’s why it’s so essential to know it. You cannot get anywhere if you don’t have the destination in mind. It’s like driving your car in circles over and over again, hoping to get to the ocean. Whereas if you knew you wanted to go to the ocean, you would just head west, or east, or south, depending on where you’re at.
My message today is about and to any woman who has been living and coping with mediocrity, feeling less than, feeling tired, experiencing radical self-doubt, questioning, wondering about her relationships, curious about “is this all there is?” Because the answer is no. There is so much more available to you.
Like I say to my clients, it will never just come and land in your lap. You have to reach and stretch and stand on your tippy-toes to put yourself out there to try and grab it. You have to give first before you gain. That is the epitome of learning the basis of living with energy to thrive.
If you don’t know that acronym or you’ve forgotten it, the letters of energy stand for: emotions, nutrition, exercise, relationships, goals, and you. If you do not pay attention to your emotions, no matter how much effort you put into your food, it won’t matter. But you have to also nourish your body and you have to nourish your mind with really good fuel. If your relationships are less than or you’re not experiencing the joy and level of happiness and fulfillment that you want to experience, then we have to look at that, too.
You must! And, no matter what titles you have in your life – mother, wife, executive, lawyer, doctor, MBA – it doesn’t matter. No matter what initials follow your name, if you have lost sight or forgotten what your personal goals are – what lights you up, what will bring you joy – then you’ve got to remember those, too. And if you’re like, “Oh geeze, I don’t know,” that’s a perfect place to start daydreaming.
Most women are running their lives 24/7 on high, like go go go go go! High capacity, high achieving. I don’t care who you are. You might have incredibly capacity to handle struggle. You might feel like you don’t get tired or that you can handle stress. But what I know for sure is burnout is around the corner, whether it’s going to be adrenal fatigue, some sort of autoimmune disease, some sort of emotional implosion.
When you don’t learn how to create any kind of recovery for yourself, it’s impossible to sustain the pace. You might be able to do it for five years, a decade – maybe a month, depending on who you are, or a year. Eventually, the whispers will get louder.
My request for you today as you listen to this and after as you’re digesting the content: ask yourself some of these questions. More importantly, answer them.
This is the single reason that coaching is important. It’s because we will ask the questions. Oh, I know I don’t really like this right now, but I don’t really know what I want. I’m going to go get busy instead. Or, I know I should be paying attention to that, but I don’t have time right now. It’s the true reason I’ve been able to create such massive transformation in my life with incredible circumstances to work through is because I’ve always had that other person to help create space for me to process my life.
You, too, can do it. Maybe you’re already in the process, in which I applaud you because I know that transformation is not for the weak or the faint of heart. You have got to breathe in courage and exhale fear. I probably say that to myself at least ten times a day sometimes.
So that’s where you start. If you do not know how to feel your feelings, you need to ask yourself and check in. Maybe every ten minutes. What do I feel right now? Not what do you think. What do I feel right now? Do I feel joy? Do I feel fatigued? Do I feel tired, annoyed, frustrated, sad, pissed off?
I’ll put a list of feeling words in the show notes. Start to expand your vocabulary and learn to self-identify what it is you’re feeling. Because if you cannot see it, you cannot change it. You can’t change what you’re not aware of.
Thank you so much for listening. I hope that this can be the beginning, the beginning of change, the beginning of an inner transformation.
That’s it for now, everybody. Take good care.