As a young adult, I broke promises here and there to people that I love, as well as to people I was acquainted with, and to people I barely knew. Here and there I failed to do things I promised to do; so, heart-felt apologies were extended and forgiveness asked for. Still, degrees of disappointment were experienced, and I felt shame. It was painful. Hence, by my mid-20s, I learned to promise only what I know I will do. Well, that took care of disappointing others for breaking promises.
Except, I kept at it with one person: me. I kept breaking promises to myself. Still, I neither apologized nor forgave myself for breaking them. I just sort of shrugged the whole thing off. Yet, every time I promised myself something that I failed to do; I would lose a bit of myself mainly in disappointment. Now in my 60s and solely accountable to myself, I see how failed promises to myself are a big giant red flag. Failed promises to myself signal to me how I am likely seeking to realize someone else’s life expectations.
Take for instance the way I have danced with food for the past four decades. It would go something like this: I would promise myself to lose weight. I would go on a diet. I would honor it long enough to feel deprived. Thus, I would go off the diet. While off the diet, I would then eat enough food to ensure I had to remain on a diet for the rest of my life. But hilarity aside and as it turns out, that right there is a broken promise to me, right? Yes, it is. Is it because I am undisciplined? Hardly. Then, what gives?
In my case, early on a lean body registered in my mind as a subjective component of beauty, of my beauty. Meanwhile, my soul always knew I really could not care less for that definition. “If you were alone in this world and there was no one to pay attention to how your body looked, you would never give the shape of your body a second thought,” my inner voice would brusquely say. The same voice would mockingly answer, “but you are not alone in this world and there are people watching. People like men which you happen to like and enjoy a lot.” There it was. Unmistakably, working on having a lean body for beauty’s sake, in my case, was always about someone else’s beholding of beauty that I in turn promised myself I could have. Therefore, depending on who was in the horizon and depending on what was going on in the external world, sometimes I would succeed with my diet and sometimes I would not.
Fast forward 40 years. The exquisiteness of aging is that if you want to, you can see the “why” of your dances. It is ageing’s super-power. When I dug deep into “why do you genuinely want to lose weight and have a lean body?” I found this: “because I genuinely want optimal health and science says lean bodies that are the result of healthy eating, exercise and balance are presumably healthier.”
It turns out who I truly am wants to have optimal health for as long as possible because living in health is an important tenet of my life. It is that simple. If I were alone in this world, I would still want to enjoy optimal health because I want to always be able to move and dance and write. If having a lean body gave that chance to me, I would totally go for it even if there was nobody watching. Ah, “therein lies the rub” and the weight is coming off for the first time in a long while.
As you can appreciate, losing weight to have a lean body, be it for beauty or health, yields the same exact outcome: a lean body. But when the “why” of what you are promising yourself is aligned with who you are, that integrity will keep you from disappointing yourself. Nowadays I would tell my younger self to just stop when faced with a broken self-promise. I would advise her to take a dive into “why” she was promising herself something she is unwilling to do. I would tell her that although the answer to that question could take a while, it will inevitably lead to the path where true self-actualization lies. I would further tell the younger version of me that whenever faced with a goal that is in contradiction with her “self”, to know that chances are she is working on someone else’s idea of what her life is. I would advise her to stop and recalibrate. I would say, girl, this is your chance to change your direction and place yourself in the path that is aligned with who you are and/or are meant to be. Go for it!