Sometimes when new clients approach us or book in for a naturopathy appointment they put themselves under pressure to be “doing the right thing” already. And sometimes I get the sense that they feel a need to apologise for their behaviours or habits or food choices or lifestyle. Perhaps they feel a little embarrassed or maybe they feel they need to somehow explain or justify their routines and diet (even though deep down they know these habits need to change which is, in part, what brought them to us in the first place).
Some are reluctant to share their “secrets” for fear of judgement or ridicule but I want to assure you there is no need to be embarrassed! If you are our client, we accept you as you are.
We are a judgement-free clinic so there is no need to apologise for your choices, habits or past actions. These are all part of who you are. We know you have likely made these choices in the moment, based on how you were feeling, what was happening for you and the information and resources you had at the time.
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing. It allows you to learn from your past in order to make different choices in the future with the intent (but no guarantee) of getting a different outcome. However it is important not to dwell in hindsight. It can paralyse you and just make you feel guilty which serves no useful purpose.
You are doing the best you can with the resources, knowledge and time currently at your disposal.
Give yourself a break!
When working with our naturopathic clients, we try to avoid the use of the terms right and wrong, good and bad. Labelling your actions and choices in this way sets you up for more guilt, self-punishment, anger or maybe unrealistic expectations of what you “should” be capable of. Which brings me to “should”.
“Should” is such a loaded word.
We rarely give ourselves credit for actually doing the things we “should” do. So, why are we so quick to feel like a failure, guilty, inadequate and defeated when we don’t do the “shoulds”.
Again, we know you are doing the best you can, and if you are struggling to make the changes you want, then it is our job to help you find a solution that works for you in the context of your current life.
Think about your language….does it empower you or dis-empower you?
“I choose…” says something completely different to “I should…”
Learn from the past but don’t beat yourself up
In the bigger scheme of things you probably know that some of your past choices may not be serving your longer-term objectives, but in the here and now, right in the moment, they might seem like exactly what you need and want or they may just be the path of least resistance when you have no energy to contemplate anything else.
But it might be after the event that the guilt or realisation that perhaps your choice was not in your best long term interests kicks in. When your rational brain is saying carrot sticks but your emotional brain is saying chips or chocolate or wine or a cigarette, guess which one will win sooner or later!
Don’t berate yourself. Instead, reflect on what that choice gave you, why you needed it and let’s be open about it. Then we can work on alternative options for the next time that situation arises.
Part of the consultative process in naturopathy is to understand what’s happening and help you learn from the past to move forward to the future.
Are you self-medicating?
We use a lot of things to self-medicate our pain and feelings. Everything from drugs (both prescription and otherwise), alcohol, cigarettes, chocolate, sugar, ice-cream, sex, exercise and more. They may mask our feelings or make us feel better in the short term but they do nothing to change the circumstances under which those feelings arise in the first place.
Think about how you feel when you self-medicate. Does it make you feel calmer and less anxious? Does it make you feel happier? Does it give you more energy? Is the relief that self-medicating gives you followed by a low or some guilt? Do you then repeat the cycle? Can we (you and I) as a team get below the surface and understand what is going on for you so that we can start to make some changes or maybe just plan for changes in the future when you’re ready?
Let it go
Every decision and choice you have made (along with those of your parents and even your grandparents) have brought you to this very moment. That’s the reality and it’s fine. It’s part of the essence of who you are but it doesn’t have to mean you are stuck, or that you can’t make different choices to shape your future and move you in a different direction if that is what you want.
Be smart…accept help
You are likely here because you realise you might achieve better outcomes with some expert help (additional resources). That’s clever. Living your happiest and healthiest life can be difficult, especially if you don’t know what that life even looks like for you (and it may be nothing like all those shiny images on social media).
Perhaps you are getting conflicting messages left, right and centre from the internet, friends and colleagues and you just don’t have the brain-power or energy to figure it out on your own. Don’t give up. That’s where a naturopath can help.
Feel free to be honest with us….warts and all. When that happens we are in the best position to help you achieve your goals. We are all human and none of us is perfect (despite what the “highlights reels” we see on the internet might want us to believe). Some days go more smoothly than others. Some days we stumble and that’s ok. That’s human.
So, next time you are sitting in a naturopathic consultation with us, feel free to accept yourself as you currently are and leave the self-judgement, guilt and need to be “perfect” at the door.