What you need

What "healthy" behaviors in your life are actually vices?

I’m fairly certain that I’m lactose intolerant, or at the very least sensitive to dairy. Yet, over the past month or two, I’ve found myself with a bowl of ice cream or a pizza more times than I care to admit. 

In spite of knowing that something doesn’t agree with me, enjoying the pleasure of some of my favorite foods has overtaken the very real knowledge that I will feel worse later. 

That’s how vices work, I suppose. We numb or soothe the temporary pain in the moment, knowing that we’re creating greater pain for ourselves later. Then, we try to treat the vice like it’s the problem, when it’s increased presence in our lives is actually a symptom of something else in our lives being unhealthy. 

Why am I eating ice cream more than usual? Because I’ve been feeling stressed and anxious more than usual. The problem isn’t dairy, it’s the source of the stress.

Getting to the source of the problem can take some time and exploration. We used to have really weak water pressure in our bathroom shower. So, we cleaned the shower head really well, and it improved a little. So, we replaced the shower head, and it improved some. Then we replaced the water line at the street, and found that there were some tree roots and corrosion that were disrupting the flow of water on our old water line. 

We spent years chasing down treatments, until we finally discovered the true source of the issue, and were able to cure it. 

We all have aspects of our lives where we’re hyper-focused on a treatment, thinking it’s the cure. There have been seasons of my life where I have been intensely focused on healthy diet and exercise, not recognizing that my motivations for engaging in those new habits were an outgrowth of body shame rather than a desire for health. 

Even the healthiest of behaviors, those cultural ideals that we celebrate the most, can be stemming from unhealthy motivations. 

So, what do we need? We need to start by giving a voice to our own intuition; we need to get quiet enough to hear it and we need to pay attention to it, listening and amplifying it. We need to approach ourselves with curiosity and grace, noticing when we’re approaching something out of an unhealthy place and being inquisitive about what we’re believing about that thing. We need to give ourselves permission to rest, to slow, to be quiet and shut things down, to process. We need to rewrite ugly lies with beautiful truths. 

How we do that may look a little different for each person (this is where that small, quiet voice really matters). We may need to seek a guide, like a therapist or counselor, someone skilled in identifying dysfunctional behaviors to help us process through. We may need to spend some time journaling or processing with a close friend. We may want to integrate meditation into our daily practice. 

As we open ourselves up to taking care of our needs, it will allow us to enjoy our own lives and love those around us far better. We won’t be operating at a deficit, instead out of bounty. 

When our vessels are filled, we’re able to pour into others, we’re not dying of thirst ourselves. We’re hardwired for connection with others. 

But, if we’re not taking care of what we need ourselves, we enter those spaces with selfish needs and self-protective defenses, guarded from true connection. 

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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.