Be Light and Healthy

Halloween and the Disguises We Wear

Posted on: October 31, 2010

“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves.”  François Duc de La Rochefoucauld

Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Over the years it has served to conjure up many different feelings.  As a child, I loved Halloween parties and dressing up in a costume to go trick or treating.  I loved all the candy and the sweets my mother made.  As I got older, it began to invoke anxiety because it represented the beginning of the holiday binge season.  I would promise myself this would be the year I wouldn’t overindulge in candy and junk food, but then I’d forego any hopes of eating healthy and eat my way through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with the intention of starting a diet when the new year arrived.  Of course at the same time, I was mentally beating myself up for my lack of willpower.    

What I’ve come to realize is that I had been wearing a disguise every day in the form of excess weight. When small children dress in costumes, they easily slip into a character and often don’t want to take their costumes off.  As a child, I had donned my costume and never taken it off.  I had become conditioned to wearing it and did not know who I would be without it.  It protected me and kept me from venturing outside my comfort zone.  It served as an excuse to avoid trying new things and kept me invisible.  I was doing an excellent job playing the part of an overweight person.  My body, mind, and spirit were so deeply intertwined in this role that it appeared to come naturally to me. 

For years, I went through life unconsciously.  The only time I considered my behavior was when I was fretting about it and dieting, which served to cause more anxiety and invoke a crash diet.  For the majority of my life, I was on auto-pilot, consistently eating the junk food that I had indulged in my entire life.  I always thought of myself as being overweight and unable to lose weight, and it was a self-fulfilling prophecy until I changed my thinking.   I certainly wasn’t listening to my body, the body that was always trying to pull me back into balance and back to my authentic self.  My body was not craving candy – it was my mind that had been conditioned to believe and assume that I would overeat through the holidays. 

The first step in changing a behavior is becoming aware of lifestyle choices that have become habits and acknowledging them.  Because many habits originate in childhood, they are deeply ingrained in us and have become a part of our disguises.  Being aware and acknowledging unhealthy habits allowed me to begin shedding my disguise.  The disguise fit me so well that when I considered shedding it, I felt vulnerable and uncomfortable.  However, I also felt like I was at a fork in the road as I approached my 40th birthday.  If I continued down this well-worn path, I suspected ill health and disease were inevitable. 

To address my anxiety I had to be gentle with myself, which allowed me to slowly shift my thinking.  As I nurtured myself mentally, my mind softened and opened up to new possibilities.  It was okay to be anxious about this new undertaking.  At my old weight exercise made me feel physically uncomfortable, but it also made me feel emotionally uncomfortable.  My desire to remain invisible was so strong that I did not want anyone to see me exercising or even walking.  I handled this by gently incorporating more movement into my life by opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to the mailbox, making more trips up and down the stairs at home, and parking farther away from my destination. 

Once I started thinking of myself as a person on the road to good health, I eventually began opting for healthier choices.  I no longer assumed I was going to secretly gorge on candy when Halloween rolled around.  When I went to my mother’s house on a holiday, I didn’t automatically scarf down a dozen home-baked cookies instead of eating the meal.  My new habits included bringing something healthy that I enjoyed to ensure that I wouldn’t succumb to temptation.  In addition, I allowed myself to have a cookie if I consciously decided that I really wanted it.  Instead of fearing food and being in denial by quickly eating, I was savoring the experience.  As my lifestyle slowly changed, I started to see the person who was buried under the weight, a process that continues to this day.  My spirit became lighter and a joy trickled into my life.  It was a different kind of joy, an essence that allowed me to feel connected to nature and all of life.  Uncovering your authentic self is not always easy and sometimes feels risky.  If often requires that you feel the uncomfortable feelings and gently ease yourself through the process or sometimes even take a leap.  I am very grateful that I took the risks, experienced the discomfort, and transformed my life.       

We all wear disguises, and they come in many forms.  They unknowingly become a part of our attire in response to the good intentions of well-meaning parents, the death of a loved one, or an event in our lives that was out of our control.  We become conditioned to believe we cannot take the disguise off because it protects us from pain.  Conversely, it also prevents us from feeling joy and living life to its fullest.  Shedding the disguise will enable you to transition back to your authentic self, the one that was born into this world with unlimited potential and magnificence. 

I invite you to look at yourself and become aware of any disguises that you may be wearing.  If you choose to shed your disguise, be gentle with yourself and handle it in the manner that best suits you.  Honor your uniqueness.  In addition, I invite you to sign up for weekly e-mail updates to get informed and inspired to Be Light and Healthy.

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