Image by Debbie Digioia
Do have persistence to reach your eating and health (and other goals)? Or do you either give up easily? Do you persist for a while, then slack off, and keep up this on-off cycle until you stop trying? If you’ve ever wondered about why persistence is difficulty for you—but gave up seeking to figure it out before you found an answer!—here are some questions to ask yourself about what you learned about persistence as a child:
- Were one or both of your parents/caretakers persistent or did they cave without a fight or try to reach a goal, stop, resume, then give up their efforts? If you didn’t have role models who persisted in attempting to reach realistic goals, you may have a hard time doing it because you likely picked up the bad habits and patterns of your parents. If they didn’t have stick-to-itiveness, you never saw effective skills modeled.
- Did your parents/caretakers encourage you or did they leave you to struggle on your own? Sometimes parents expect too much of us yet, at the same time, don’t give us enough help, so that we feel overwhelmed and toss in the towel. Alternately, parents often jump in to finish things for us, giving us the message that we’re not doing it quickly or well enough. When they do this, it’s because they feel impatience, an inner pressure to get things done, perfection, or don’t tolerate frustration very well.
- Were you told, “You never finish what you start”? If you heard that often enough, you may have come to believe it’s true and that concept is now part of your identity, that is, you think of yourself as someone who flits from one thing to another without ever achieving completion. Moreover, if you had parents with this pattern, you make think that this is acceptable and appropriate behavior.
- Was your family so oriented toward the goal or end product that they failed to explain to you how to reach goals? You may not recognize that persistence is essential and wonder how people become successful. In short, you may lack skills.
- Were your parents such perfectionists with themselves or with you that you felt that if you couldn’t do something perfectly, or tried and failed, that you needn’t have bothered? Did they set goals for you which were out of your reach, yet criticize you when you couldn’t reach them?
It’s vital to recognize the barriers you had to persistently engaging in reaching your goals and acquiring this skill. To remain persistent, you need to look at barriers as challenges, take baby steps, look for small rewards along the way, not be judgmental about your progress, avoid comparing yours to the progress that others make, shower yourself with compassion and encouragement, and allow yourself to be uncomfortable in the present in order to feel better in the future. Ironically, this is almost the exact opposite of what most people with eating problems do! What is one way you could be more persistent in improving your relationship with food and your body? If you can’t think one this instant, be patient and persistent until you come up with one before reading the next sentence. (pause!) Give yourself as long as you need, and you’ll be practicing the persistence you need to reach your eating goals.