I heard an ad on the radio recently for a weight loss program. The upbeat, energetic man speaking shared a powerful testimonial about losing 42 pounds in 30 days, without feeling hungry, without exercising, and without taking pills. Next spoke the wise-sounding doctor from this fabulous weight loss center describing how they work with each person to create a custom plan that would help melt away the pounds.
I have to admit it was appealing. The thought of losing 10, 20, or 30 pounds without effort or life-style changes… heck, sign me up!
Then the realist in me set in. I can smell bullshit when it’s in front of me (even if I wasn’t raised on a farm!) I know that if that program worked, or any “magic pill” weight loss program worked, everyone would weigh exactly what they wanted.
The success for programs like this (and I am talking about success in terms of people paying for the program) is that it speaks to the pain you’re experiencing in that moment: when you feel overwhelmed, at the end of your rope and you have tried everything you can think of.
Whether it’s your physical or emotional health you want to change, if you are experiencing pain you will try just about anything.
That’s why the programs like the radio ad I heard start to sound very tempting, even when you can smell the shit it’s selling.
Unfortunately, there is no magic pill.
Believe me, I wish there was. It would be lovely if life were that easy. Gain a few pounds from splurging on a decadent vacation? Poof… back to fitting in your favorite jeans. Struggling in your career and not moving up the corporate ladder as quickly as you want? Poof…. Promotions and advancement galore! Feeling lonely and isolated from others around you? Poof…. Deep connection and solid relationships in your life.
Damn, a magic pill would be nice!
But when it comes down to it, it’s just not reality.
Sure, in the weight-loss world you can drop ten pounds quickly by drastically restricting calories and working out three hours a day. For a short-term, quick-fix this works, but it’s not sustainable or healthy for long-term weight loss. For most who take this approach, the ten pounds comes right back, plus a few extra, the moment you slack even the slightest on your routine.
Something similar happens in the mental health. For those that struggle with acceptance, worth, identity, love, etc., there is an appeal to the “magic pill.” There are thousands of self-help books that promise a quick turn-around to an amazing you. Here are a few examples:
“Self-Help: A 4-Step Emotional Survival Plan You Can Use for any Problem or Emergency or Anything in Between”
“How to Eliminate Negative Thoughts and Emotions with One Simple but Powerful Step”
“The Stupidly Simple Happiness Formula: The No Luck Required Guide to Being Insanely Happy (7 Minute Change)”
Now, I’ve not actually read these books. They probably have some profound and powerful solutions included. But just like the radio ad for the “magic pill” weight loss program, it makes me wonder how effective they are for lasting change.
Sure, these kinds of books can teach you some phrases, techniques and coping skills that will provide some change pretty quickly. You may notice some immediate relief and improvements in certain areas. Unfortunately, after a few weeks or months, if you’re not digging in to create change on a deeper level, things will likely return to homeostasis. The previous struggles return and life feels back to ‘normal’ (even if you don’t like that ‘normal’).
One reason creating life-long change in your emotional health is so challenging is there are often deeply embedded messages that you’ve internalized. Stories and narratives you’ve been told, and believe, that aren’t accurate, but none-the-less persist.
These could be messages you heard from others in your life that led you to believe you were less than. It could have been from times you struggled with life challenges, stumbling or even falling, leading you to believe that is all you are capable of.
Sometimes it’s hard to identify where these stories come from. Even harder to understand why we keep telling ourselves these stories that we know, in our heads, are inaccurate, but in our hearts feel so real.
Is this sounding familiar to you? Are you ready for something different?
Well, I’ve got your back! Here’s a worksheet that can help you start to think about the negative messages you tell yourself and reframe them into statements that will be adaptive for your life.
Give yourself about fifteen minutes in a quiet, distraction free area. Take a few deep breaths and feel the ground solid beneath your feet. As you work through this worksheet, try to be open and honest with yourself. Remember this worksheet is for you alone, you don’t have to share it with anyone.
As you start to reframe your statement, this can get challenging. Here’s an example to help:
Negative message: “I’ll never be accepted for who I really am”
Reframed self-talk: “I have fought to express myself in an authentic way and I’m proud of myself”
“I like that I’m compassionate toward others, it’s a quality I admire in others”
“I am being vulnerable by putting myself out there to meet new people, this will help me meet people who will accept me for the awesome human I am!”
Creating long-lasting change starts with your honest self-evaluation, plus lots of nurturing, softness, openness, vulnerability and love.
You are worth digging in deep. You are worth having a life you love. I believe in you!
Adriana Joyner, LMFT, is a Sacramento Area therapist specializing in counseling for people healing from painful life experiences and traumas, support for individuals exploring their gender identity and expression, and the LGBTQIA community. Her office is located in Gold River, CA located off Highway 50 at Sunrise Blvd. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (916) 547-3997 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.