How do we know ourselves? Comparing versus LIKE and LOVE

How do we know ourselves? I think we tend to know ourselves by comparison. I’m shorter than my one cousin, fatter than my niece, slower than my brother, slightly worse at Maths than my best friend etc. BUT I’m also taller than another cousin, slimmer than another niece, faster than my other brother and slightly better at Maths than another friend.

And that is exactly the problem with comparing ourselves to others. There will always be somebody better than you. And there will always be somebody worse off than you. But we (OK, no: I) usually compare myself to everybody that is better than me. Usually on the days that I actually need some positive reinforcement.

I was transcribing an interview and I couldn’t quite make out what the person was saying. Something about “a ??? personality”. Of course, what do you do if you want to find out more about something? Starts with a G….?

So I googled personality types, hoping to match what I see with what I can’t quite hear … and happened on an interesting blog on the INFJ personality type:

I still don’t know what personality the interviewee was referring to, but I learned something new about my own personality type in the process.

INFJ is just one of 16 personality types according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. (Did you know that Myers and Briggs were both female and that Briggs was Myers’ mother? Bit of useless information.)

Perman and Albritton discuss these 16 types in detail in their book I’m not crazy I’m just not you. The types are determined along a continuum of four dimentions:

(E) Extraverting   ENERGY                 Introverting (I)
(S) Sensing             PERCEPTION        Intuiting (N)
(T) Thinking          JUDGMENT           Feeling (F)
(J) Judging            ORIENTATION    Perceiving (P)

Can you see what the INFJ refers to?

You can find out what your personality type is here:

In any case, back to the point I was trying to make. At some point the INFJ coach advises the reader to answer a list of questions with positive declarations like “I love candy” in stead of negative declarations like “I eat to many sweets”.

Based on this positive declaration mindset, I now realise that I absolutely LOVE brownies. I LOVE fudge. I LOVE condensed milk. I also LIKE baking and making sweet stuffs. As soon as I reframed the brownies and fudge and condensed milk as positive, I took away my self-judgement. I’ve been complaining about eating too much sugary things and judging myself and feeling bad about it and not being on a diet even though my figure would surely thank me for having less to carry… Filling myself with dread because another day passed with too much sugar. So now I’m still eating too much sugar, but not feeling so bad about it? I understand your skepticism.

However, in the process, I also realised that I do not really LOVE or even LIKE the smores (melted marshmellows on Marie Biscuits) that I’ve been devouring one after the other. Also chips (crisps/potato chips). I’ve never been able to open a packet and not eat everything. But I don’t really LOVE or LIKE it. I’m just on automatic. Reminds me of a scene in the animation Ratatouille where the food critic is criticised for being so thin and that he obviously doesn’t like food. And he replies: I don’t like food. I LOVE food. And if I don’t LOVE it, I don’t swallow!

I do hope that the premise that you can’t change what you’re not aware of will proof to be true. I mean, really. If I could delete automatic intake of the smores and chips that I don’t LOVE, my hips would surely be better off?

Any way, I have started writing down the little things I like/love every day. Now instead of comparing myself to what I observe of someone else (comparing my insides to somebody else’s outsides) – and basing my self-image on how well I compare, or not – I now find comfort, pleasure and self-acceptance in my little quirks: I like “playing around” (meaning not in too much detail) with apps and software that improve my work and/or that works well. I absolutely LOVE a colourful plate of food (any plate of food looks better with a bit of green, have you noticed?). I LIKE my first cup of coffee in the morning. I LIKE Google.

For some strange reason, I feel like ending this piece with:

How much do I love thee, let me count  the ways 🙂


Can you feel it? Can you FEEL it? CAN YOU FEEL IT?!

Is it only me, or does this title remind you of Jane Fonda and exercise? Anyway, the previous book I read categorised me as a punisher. My latest book categorise me as a “runner”. As in the “running away from feelings by eating” category.

Brooke Castillo has some interesting ideas in If I’m so smart, why can’t I loose weight?.

One of them is that instead of ridding your home of all cakes and sweets and stuff (and instead of never again attending a party in your life), you embrace them. Yes. Embrace. The weight-gaining food stuffs. She didn’t say it exactly like that. But I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant.

It’s like kumite (sparring in karate). Bearing in mind that the category “runner” would also apply to me in this type of situation … Here’s your opponent/training partner in your face, trying to score a point/hit you (this may be hard/soft/full out/half hearted/whatever). You’re trying to block/get out of the way and also score a point/hit back in a way similar to how hard you were hit. In that moment you can’t get away from it. You have to deal with it. And the more you stick with it, the more you trust that you’ll be able to survive even though it still is scary and even though it might hurt.

So here’s the cake and sweets in my face, trying to get me to eat them. Except that they’re not. I’ve been giving them way too much power. Castillo says in that moment when I hear them calling me, at that precise moment, I’m trying to run away from feeling something. I should rather stay in this kumite session, and engage in the “why?” and “what?” of it all.

I had some excellent opportunity to practice these past two days. My 9-year-old stayed at home to participate in a Mathletics challenge. Yip. Maths. Definitely didn’t get it from me. Kids all over the world sit in front of the computer and earn points for each correct answer. If they’re first in their class or on the list, they win something like an iPod and bragging rights: “I’m nr 86 on the list” or whatever. Why did I say it provided me with practice?


I like to work in the mornings. I do my best work then. I like to work systematically. Start at the beginning and work to the end. I work hard, then I take a break. Then I work hard again and I take a break again.

My son doesn’t do things my way.

And there’s just no way that I can impart the emotional baggage of that last sentence in a way that will do it justice. But thanks to Castillo’s feelings list, I can now verbalise how I felt (although I still had some cake): Upset, Mad, Annoyed, Frustrated, Agitated, Hot, Bewildered, Trapped, Troubled, Lost, Alone, Unsure, Puzzled, Bothered, Uncomfortable, Undecided, Perplexed.

Interesting what you can learn about yourself.

I apparently had medium-intensity feelings of an ANGRY nature sprinkled with high- and mild-intensity feelings of the CONFUSED variety. And even though I did have my cake, there was still half a cake left when hubby came back from work. There might be something to this feeling business.

So with this in mind, maybe the best mantra for me would be something like: FEEL IT! or CAN YOU FEEL IT?

I’m feeling cheerful and content right now. So according to Castillo’s feelings list I have medium-intensity feelings of the HAPPY kind. Yeah! No eating necessary! 😀

No matter what you weigh, there is nothing basically wrong with you

I still am surprised at how often the issue of weight comes up in conversations with mostly thin people. I used to take it personally and thought it was a hint to get me to do something about my weight. Of course, if slim people are worried about weight, surely I should be too.

But to be absolutely honest: I find that I do not have the same pull towards weight loss that I have for example towards further studies. There is no question in my mind that I will someday wear that red toga. And I am willing to spend money and time to achieve this goal.

I can not say the same about weight loss. I can not say with absolute certainty that I will one day weigh that elusive number that the charts prescribes for someone of my “shortness”. And spending time and money towards that goal… well, I find it just as easy to spend time and money on things that are not congruent with this goal. Cake, chocolates, biscuits, chips, if you must know.

The only thing motivating me towards weight loss, is to not have to see a big image of myself in a mirror or on a photograph. But this is more like “pushing away from” the big image than a “pulling towards” the slimmer version of myself.

I have a suspicion that “pulling towards” is more powerful than “pushing away from”. Because, hey, I don’t have to look at myself when exercising in a room with mirrors… and I can just ignore “You’ve been tagged” messages…

If I really want to get to that so-called ideal weight, I’ll have to reframe this issue into a “pulling towards” motivator. But till I find it, I feel comforted by Martha Beck’s words (in The 4-day win):

no matter what you weigh, there is nothing basically wrong with you

But mind you, she also says:

Losing weight and keeping it off requires that you live an unusually authentic, fulfilling life.

Scary stuff, linking an unusually authentic, fulfilling life with weight. And here I was, thinking I was doing rather OK except for my weight!

From dishes (and facebook photos) to pedaling bicycles

I didn’t, did I? Mention dishes and facebook photos as if they were equal? In a previous blog, I made that mistake. Because they’re not, you know. At least doing the dishes make you feel better and generate some positive energy. The same can not be said about facebook photos. 🙂

Talking about energy: There was an article in Die Burger yesterday about a genome expert jokingly saying that “fatties” should be punished by having to pedal bicycles so that they could at least generate energy. It was only mentioned in passing that humans’ biological evolution stopped 100 000 years ago. The implication of this was not spelled out, though. Let me spell it out: if us “fatties” were living 100 000 ago, we would have had one up on all you thin people out there. We would be (thin) and alive  – you probably not so much (alive, I mean).

Fatties are judged by people to be sloppy, to have no self-control, to be poor employees – heck, I judge fat people too, and I am fat. But we judge ourselves too. And with so much judgement passing our way, no wonder most of us are constantly trying to get that skinny bitch on the inside out (although “skinny bitch” have more negative connotations for me than “fat cow”).

And who ever came up with the idea that losing weight is a good thing? If something is lost, you go looking for it until you find it again, not so?

And what’s the deal with average. How can people be calculated as averages if no two people are the same?

I have had days when the weight thing didn’t bother me as much, when I focussed on how I felt inside and how what I ate influenced my mood.

But then I have to buy some exercise clothes (after having lost weight) and there is still nothing in my size…

Then I open the newspaper and am categorized as a transgressor, an offender, a delinquent, a lawbreaker…

I am harassed by advertisements of a bombardment of products that promise weight loss featuring slim sexy girls in bikinis… (yeah right – how thin do you need to be before you start using the product?)

And the only sure coping mechanism I have against these attacks (the same mechanism that has proven its worth to my ancestors 100 000 years ago) is the one thing that is not helping. You know? Food.

PS: Ag, I realise I’m being very subjective here and that I’m myself simplifying something that is not a simple issue at all. But I had to say something. And for the record: I do not mind having to pedal the bicycle. What I do mind is this genome expert’s/journalist’s lack of insight: The genome research is presented in an abstract manner with a quick side joke about fatties, without acknowledging that the two things are in fact related.

You can really count on dishes and facebook photos of yourself…

I read somewhere that you can always count on the dishes. They’ll be there when big things happen, and they’ll be there when nothing much happens in your life. The dishes won’t let you down.

I found it interesting that Ann Marie Woodall refers to the virtues of a clean kitchen sink in a chapter on vitality in her book Secrets of a high-heeled healer! Vitality – clean kitchen sink (OK, I am using a bit of poetic licence here, I’m leaving out the connecting tissue of her thought process: the long and the short of it is that clutter and chaos in your life robs you of your energy).

The chapter starts with a quote from F Scott Fitzgerald:

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but also the ability to start over.

After reading this quote, I am rather concerned that my dishes are exhibiting more vitality than I am…

But you get the point? Clutter is bad for vitality. Another aspect of clutter’s negative influence in our lives are body image (No, I am not using any poetic licence here. It’s in a section with the title: vitality vampire 1: the ‘clutter buts’). Her argument makes sense. When our wardrobes are filled with clothes in sizes we will never wear again; each time we sort through it we are reinforcing shattered dreams of sylph-like bodies or supermodel legs.

Talking about shattered dreams. Why is it that you can look yourself in the mirror every day and not see yourself quite in the same negative light as action photos of yourself on facebook? Do we look at ourselves objectively? When do we start judging our images and why?

 Maybe the real clutter robbing us of our vitality can be found in our thoughts.

Nobody can say I’m lazy… I like the long, scenic route to solve problems…

I made a list with 13 items the other day [ OK, OK, I’ve signed up for postaweek2011] and later added some more [Another issue for my list]. When I wrote them, they were scary. When I looked at them later, they seemed to have shrunk with regard to their fear factor. I completed the first four without much of a hitch.

I even went so far as to say “So what was my problem? What were the big issues here?” about that list and even added some more. Could I not have kept my mouth shut?

OK, so if you don’t think there’s an issue, let’s give you one…

The items one by one, I thought I could handle. Now I feel as if they’re all coming at me simultaneously. 

Hubby left for his first overseas trip – I feel like hiding in my room.

I have to help my child prepare for his first speech of the year (with accompanying poster)‑ I am so much better at doing things myself than teaching/guiding others ‑ I feel like crying, oh, I AM.

My house is very dirty and deurmekaar (at least I can blame it on the GB wind and hubby’s packing behaviour) ‑ I feel like reorganising everything and painting the walls a different colour…

There’s a parent-teacher meeting at the school (no children allowed) conflicting with Taiko ‑ I feel like staying home.

I so hate having to ask people something. It’s like admitting that I can’t cope on my own. How could I be dependent on other people for help? I must be some kind of weakling that I need assistance…

No, I’ll rather eat two packets of chips, finish reading a book, watch some television and be miserable … than phoning and asking and getting it over and done with.

No, the fact that I agreed to give a talk at the Weight Watcher’s meeting coming Thursday did not prevent my overeating.

No, my listed intention (“OK, I will pay attention: am I hungry or am I trying to escape?”) also did not prevent my overeating ‑ I did pay attention, though: I know that I was eating to try and escape… (Can’t change what you don’t acknowledge, Dr Phil!)

No, I take the long, scenic route to solve the problem.

In the end, I did phone and ask, and, of course, they were only too happy to help. No problem, any time. Why oh, why could I not have taken the short cut?

Tidbits on the road to happiness, or: According to my fingers I’m male!

Just finished reading The Happiness Trip by Eduardo Punset. It offers a scientific journey into various aspects related to happiness (or the lack thereof!) and ends with Punset offering a mathematical equation for happiness. I found the book academic but maybe it’s because I really wanted the search for happiness to be much less complex 🙂 than portrayed. However, there were some interesting facts and tidbits along the way:

Whatever you think, your brain believes. Humans only need to imagine having a bad time to actually trigger the same emotions as when they really experience bad times (p. 57)!

I do and I don’t! Unlike animals, humans can have mixed emotions. We can love and hate at the same time (p. 30).

Blame it on the set point. Everyone is supposedly born with a certain set point or window for their height, their level of happiness and, wait for it….. weight! The reality is that genetics prevails over diets in an overwhelmingly high percentage of cases, and over happiness in approximately 50 percent of cases (p. 76). Isn’t that comforting to know? 🙂 If a fetus is deprived of certain nutrients in the third trimester of gestation, its metabolism changes forever. This is called “metabolic programming/imprinting” and can be used to predict obesity, diabetes and hypertension later in life (p. 102).

Why competition is good for you. When a herd of antelope flees from a lioness, the main adversary of the slowest animal is not the lioness, but the faster antelope (p. 80). So that is why our society is so focused on competition. We have to be prepared for that lioness.

The past is alive and kicking!  The rate of cardiovascular incidents and rheumatism is higher among the poor than the rich. Even after the poor have grown rich! (p. 92) This simple test is apparently a more reliable health indicator than your actual socioeconomic status: It’s not so much a case of being poor, but of feeling poor (p. 99). An echo of poverty remains in place even two generations after a family has put poverty behind them. It lives on in their attitudes, anxieties, and insecurities that arose due to a feeling of unprotectedness (p. 102).

You have to clean out the rubbish bin. Unlearning is important. It is not what you don’t know that makes you unhappy but, to paraphrase Mark Twain, what you know for sure that just is not so (p. 132).

According to my fingers I’m male! The index finger tends to be shorter than the ring finger in men while the two fingers tend to be the same in women due to hormone fluxes during the fetal period (p. 59). A, you see why I need to get in touch with my feminine side.

 So what do I take away from this book about happiness? This simple truth: happiness is the absence of fear (p. 145). Maybe I should reread Feel the fear and do it anyway (Susan Jeffers, was it?). Surely I’ll improve my happiness then… Oh, unless my happiness set point objects…

Another issue for my list

How strange. When I compiled my list of things that I planned to be open for and open about, every single one was a scary one. I was grinding my teeth and almost felt that I was pushing myself too much and I expected it to be difficult.

Now I read that list and I think: “So what was my problem? What were the big issues here?” I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective and attitude.

This brings me to the next issue that I need to confront. Why it is so difficult to have to admit that I needed (still need) and sought help tackling my excess weight, is a mystery. It’s not as if I can hide my weight issue. I’m short and round and it’s quite clear for everyone to see when they look at me (or at those *&%! photographs that sometimes pop up on facebook! 🙂 ).

And I don’t like talking about diets, especially with thin people. (From where I’m standing everybody else is thin).

I believe my excess kilograms is not simply a matter of bad eating habits and lack of exercise. No, bad eating habits and lack of exercise are the tools I originally used to gain the weight. And because I was not paying attention (to myself or to portion sizes or to what I was putting into my mouth – as long as it could distract me from facing that specific moment in time that I was trying to escape from). And I wanted to hide and avoid being seen/noticed. You thin people out there might not believe me, but the easiest way to hide yourself is by being fat. People don’t look you in the eye. People don’t look at you, because you’re not aesthetically pleasing, I suppose 🙂 and therefore you avoid any unwanted (or wanted) attention.

Think about it, excess weight is stored up energy. Not only the unused energy that you put into your body with food/sweets, but energy that you did not spend. And now I don’t mean physical exercise. I mean: the energy that you’re not spending because of not using your talents, not voicing your opinion, not giving of your self, holding back, acting as if you have nothing to contribute, make-believing that you have no worth. (I’m not talking about anybody else here. I only know myself…, sort of. 🙂 )

I’ve joined Weight Watchers last year (there, now I’m out of the closet about this as well…) and gosh, it is a slow journey. But then, I also did not obtain all my excess baggage overnight.

So here’s an extra point to my list:
OK, I will confess that I have a problem with my weight.

O, no wait! I’ve just done that!

Let’s stretch….
I will pay attention: am I hungry or am I trying to escape?
I will no longer hide my self. I do have a contribution to make. I do have a voice.
I will act positively in spite of negative thoughts and feelings.
Small steps continuously in the right direction.