When you walk into a room filled with strangers, what are your initial thoughts?
Do you think the best? All these people are interested in me and are excited to meet me!
Or the worst? They don’t care who I am, everyone thinks I'm fat... dumb... boring.
Sometimes we don’t even realise that we are doing it, these judgmental thoughts are automatic, as in the following examples:
- Joe phoned me the other night to tell me about her summer holiday, “I totally relaxed, I haven’t worked out for two whole weeks”. As I listened, she suddenly stopped talking and sighed, saying, "I know you are thinking how lazy I am, I should have made the effort to work out. I can't believe how lazy I’ve become."
- Sophie cried in frustration as she described a recent problem at home. She wiped her tears and shook her head, apologetically. "You probably think I need to man up!"
- My friend Jenny and I had dinner recently, and she ordered pudding. She gave me an embarrassed look. "I know what you're thinking. I certainly don’t need pudding”.
There is one big problem here, they all thought they knew what I was thinking. They were all wrong!
Why did each of my friends project their own critical thoughts about themselves onto me?
Lizzie’s mother was always on the go and accused her of being lazy. She thought I was viewing her through her mother’s eyes.
As a child Sophie was told to ‘man up’, tears were viewed as a sign of weakness. She imagined that I was viewing her tears disapprovingly.
Jenny’s ex constantly monitored her weight, and Jenny thought I was doing so, too.
The problem is letting those engrained thoughts and fears take hold of you can make you want to isolate yourself from other people. This leaves you feeling vulnerable and can make you want to use food as a coping mechanism in any one of the following ways:
- To fill a void
- To be a friend
- For comfort
- To escape
- To be in control
Here's some "food for thought" to consider:
What do you think others are thinking about you? Are they judging? Caring? Indifferent? Mean?
Who viewed you that way in the past? How are those thoughts familiar?
How could you view yourself and the situation differently? What would you say to someone else in your position?
Here's what I was ACTUALLY thinking, by the way, about Lizzie, Sophie and Jenny:
How lovely, she works so hard its important for her to take some time out and recharge her batteries.
Let it all out hun, its important for you to release it.
It's okay to eat dessert, in moderation.
Don't presume you know what others are thinking by trying to be a mind reader! ('cause you're probably not the next mystic meg!’)
When you think the worst, you feel dreadful, and may eat to cope.
Other people ARE INTERESTED in you, you just need to learn to believe it. When you believe you fill less anxious/upset/angry and are therefore less likely to turn to food.
When you BELIEVE others are interested in you, you feel less anxious/upset/guarded and are therefore less likely to turn to food.
So quit trying to be a mind reader, its not doing you any favours.
Begin to make peace with food!