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One of my clients was aghast when I suggested she might want to stop relying on hope as much as she did. Her initial reaction was, “If I give up hope, how will I move forward? There’s nothing left without it. I could never give it up.” This is an unfortunate mindset, because, as she now realizes, “Hope can be deceiving.”
Hope is defined as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen” (Oxford Languages Dictionary), and therein lies the problem. We think of hope as making something happen, causing it, when all it does is act as a space holder until other things we do, think and feel deliver a specific outcome. Hope makes us feel good and is fine if we understand that, in itself, it does not deliver results.
Hope also has a substantial downside. Think of all the times you’ve hoped that someone would stop a behavior (drinking, drugging, yelling, being irresponsible) or how often you’ve hoped that you could become a “normal” eater. What does hope do but keep you focused on the end point? Instead, you want to be focused on what you can do to get you there.
To get where you want to go, hope can sustain motivation, but it won’t provide you with the steps to reach an end point. For that you need life skills, the right ones to generate learning and practice. What I’ve seen in my work is that too many people use hope instead of learning and practicing, as if hoping, wishing and praying will carry the day.
In my book, hope is a lightweight compared to believing in yourself and maintaining a positive attitude no matter what happens. Believing you will succeed is far more effective than hoping you will. Believing implies that success is guaranteed, although, of course, it’s not. It’s a way of charging you up to do whatever you need to do to achieve your goals, a deeply rooted feeling that’s impossible to shake.
Moreover, a positive attitude involves positive self-talk which hope doesn’t foster. The best self-talk includes always being kind, empowering, encouraging, loving, and compassionate to yourself. It means pushing yourself to be brave when you want to cower and guiding yourself every step of the way with innate wisdom. Practicing positive self-talk is active, whereas hope is passive.
Consider whether you’ve been overly reliant on hope to change your eating. You don’t need to give it up, but to succeed at becoming a “normal” eater, you’ll need to add other ingredients to the mix. Start believing in yourself and talking to yourself as if you do.
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