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Needing to Be Sure

Many disregulated eaters hold dysfunctional beliefs about needing to be sure and dong things right. They must be absolutely certain a choice is correct before making it, or need assurance that previous action was what they should have taken. Although it’s important to make well informed choices and refrain from regularly acting impulsively, we can’t know that what we do or have done will work out the way we hoped.

What are you afraid of when you relentlessly seek certainty, especially by asking others’ opinions—pain, making mistakes, failure, or being thrown off course by the zigs and zags of life? If things go wrong, do you believe you’ll be punished by someone or overwhelmed with shame and remorse? Don’t get me wrong. It’s essential to know how to ask for help and to feel comfortable taking in the wisdom people have to offer. But none of that can give you a guarantee about the future. Believing that others have the answers to your problems and that asking enough of them what you should do will make things turn out right only creates a lack of trust and confidence in you.

The assumption that you have to be certain about what you plan to do or that you must always do the right thing is irrational. What would happen if you believed that you’d be fine no matter what happens? That if you fail, you’ll still be okay? That if you make a mistake, you’ll handle whatever consequences follow? That if you turn inward and come up with answers you think are right for you and they turn out not to be, you’ll be able to cope and move on? You can’t take short cuts to wisdom by insisting on asking others what they think. The only way you’ll learn to trust yourself is through reflection and trial and error. It’s not that people can’t be helpful. They can be, to a point, but you want to be careful that you’re not seeking help because you’re too scared to make up your own mind and live with the consequences.

Which brings me to the need to be sure of what you’re doing in the eating arena. Try not asking people whether or not you should weigh yourself, use low- or full-fat products, eat organically, how often you should eat, if you’re allergic to this food or that, if you should or shouldn’t consume foods that contain sugar—well, you get the picture. Please, do get input from those in the know, but distinguish between gathering information (which is healthy) and searching for the right answer outside of yourself (which is unhealthy). The goal is to be self-reliant and augment your inner resources with an ability for seeking help when you need it, not as a replacement for your own opinion. Chasing certainty is like chasing your tail. You’ll never get anywhere.