Are You a Sheep?
Perhaps because we’re heading deeper into an election year, I keep hearing the word “sheep,” as in “we need to stop thinking like sheep and start thinking for ourselves.” Sadly, many people possess a sheep mentality and don’t even know it. The only way to wake up and realize that you’re making choices like someone who’s brain dead is to pause and reflect on why you think and act the way you do. But how many of us put in the time or make the effort?
Self-reflection is an essential part of good mental health. In fact, without it, there’s no way you will achieve it. Kicking back and thinking about the why’s and wherefores of your behavior gives you breathing space to make objective assessments as in Boy, I really didn’t think that through very well or I can’t believe I just went along with the gang and now I’m really sorry I did. Everyone falls into sheep mentality, also known as herd-think, once in a while. It’s so easy to turn off the old critical thinking skills and do what everyone else is doing. Maybe it’s wearing high heels in spite of your podiatrist’s warnings or taking a new herbal supplement that’s supposed to help you shed pounds.
You’ll never become a “normal” eater if you insist on avoiding self-reflection or thinking for yourself. “Normal” eating not only requires connecting to body signals but engaging your brain in making effective choices. We have a sheep mentality when everyone else is eating an entrée and we order one too in spite of the fact that we’re not all that hungry and only want soup or dessert. We have it when all our friends are dieting down to a size 2 and we regularly skip breakfast to join the competition. We have it when we agree with friends that purging is okay to do once in a while rather than recognize that it can irrevocably damage our bodies.
Going along with the herd is a hallmark of youth, when peer pressure is at its zenith. It’s understandable that we tend to be like sheep in our teens and into early adulthood because our frontal lobes, the part of the brain that is the seat of judgment, aren’t developed until we are in our mid- to late 20s. However, if you’re 30 or older, it’s way past time to stop going through life on auto-pilot and start thinking for yourself. One of the characteristics of adulthood and maturity is to question, reflect, make informed decisions, and tolerate being different from other people. To become a “normal” eater, you need to cast off a sheep mentality and use your critical thinking skills about all your decisions regarding food and weight. So what if you’re different? Maybe your friends will end up following you one day because you got it right!