I have always had a strong sense of responsibility. I even feel compelled to do things that are not necessarily my responsibility. This is especially true when it comes to helping people. When I see someone that I think is in need, I am called to do something. When I go back to the States for a visit, this happens when I see homeless people on the street holding signs asking for money or food. I cannot go past them without giving them something-a few dollars or some food. It drives my husband crazy; he says, “We need to think about ourselves first. We can’t help everyone.” Intellectually, I know this to be true, but if I see someone in need and it is within my power to do something to help them, I do it. I do this because I feel blessed with so much and I want to share my blessings with others as much as I can.
This accountability is also true when it comes to commitments. My sense of responsibility is strongest when I enter into any verbal, written (in the form of contracts), or understood agreement with someone. I am keenly aware of my responsibilities, and I have a deep sense of shame and disappointment when I fail to make good on a promise I have made, and it hangs over me for years until I either forgive myself or have a chance to apologize to the person concerned. I take commitment very seriously, and I try to do what I say and say what I mean whenever possible. So, it is ironic that I don’t extend the same consideration to myself.
Follow through is my greatest weakness when it comes to taking care of myself and keeping promises that I make to myself. Case in point-weight loss. I have struggled with my weight since puberty. I have fat times and not so fat times, but I have never been able to maintain and sustain a healthy weight. I’ve never been under weight, but I’ve often been over weight. The heaviest I’ve ever been was after my first pregnancy. I was almost 200 pounds which is around 90 kilos. I’ve never gotten that big again, and I vowed that I would never be 90 kilos, and for about seven years that has been the case; however, I still hover around 80 kilos, and last spring when I got down to 75 kilos, I promised myself I would never see 80 kilos again, and towards the end of last year, I got up to 85 kilos! I am now back down to 78 kilos, but nevertheless, I’m not doing to well at keeping a steady weight.
This has mostly to do with my diet and exercise. When I’m stressed or anxious, I binge eat sweets, and when I am not working or running errands, I stay in and I rarely get any exercise. In the past, I’ve been able to reduce my sugar intake and exercise regularly, but I have been unable to change the behavior into a habit and usually after a few weeks or a month, I revert back to my old habits. If you follow this blog, you know I went on a sugar fast for two weeks, and that for a while I felt good about my relationship with sugar; I believed I had a handle on it; well, it turns out two weeks is just not enough time to change a thirty plus year relationship with sugar. I know this, and yet I have done very little to make good on my promise to be healthy and free myself of my sugar addiction.
Another area of my life in which I have rarely made good on my promises is concerning my finances. I’m not very mature about money. I’m neither a big spender, nor am I penny pincher, but my philosophy on money is “Money comes and money goes.” It’s magical thinking. I do not feel that I have control of my money, and I do not act as if I can change my financial situation.
My relationship with money is no different from a baby’s relationship with mother’s milk; it feels hungry, it cries, and magically it gets fed. That’s how I feel about money. I need money, I get a job, and magically I have money in the bank. Now granted, I am aware that I have money because I have a job, so I am slightly more aware than an infant, but the feeling is analogous. If an infant were deprived of milk, then she would cry and cry until she received the milk. She would not be capable of going out and finding another source of milk, and no one would expect her to. Likewise, if I were deprived of money, I would seek out a job, but if there were no jobs out there, like the baby, I would be at loss as to what to do because a job is the only source of money from my perspective.
When I have a job, which thankfully, has been pretty much my entire adult life, I have money, and when that money runs low, I slow down my spending, and wait anxiously for my next pay check. Last year, I decided to start being mature about money and to start being proactive about bringing more money into my life. So, last fall I started taking on side jobs. They don’t pay much, but it’s more money coming in, and it was my way of increasing my income. It felt great to make more money, and I felt a boost in my self confidence, but I knew that my concept of money and how to make it had not changed.
In fact, this was made apparent when I failed to get a handle on our bills. I was putting off paying some of the bills, and it got to the point where I paid I few of my bills late, and at one point, forgetting to pay one of my bills cost us a day without Internet, which was really difficult for my husband.
Getting our Internet connection cut off was a wake up call. I needed to be better about paying bills, and I needed to get all of my bills that were not already on auto debit on auto debit. That was a month ago, and I have yet to take action. I have yet to follow through.
So, what’s the disconnect? What allows me to take responsibility for my actions regarding other people, but prevents or keeps me from honoring my commitments to myself? What does this ultimately mean about me? Well, if you follow this blog, and you’ve been with me on this journey for a while, you know that I am learning to love myself and put my own needs first. A year ago, I would have seen these short comings as demonstrative of a deep personal flaw one that was indicative of the fact that I was irreparably broken. However, I don’t see it that way now. I see it as indicative of the fact that I’m human, and I am a work in progress with the promise of brilliance.
It’s a wonderful sentiment. It is one that is self affirming and positive, but it doesn’t do much to help me find a way to change my financial situation and more importantly, my beliefs about money. It doesn’t help me find a way to sustain a healthy weight and to become a more active person. I had the what. I needed a how. How was I going to be more mature about my finances? How was I going to honor my commitment to be healthier?
Fortunately, I found the answer. Yesterday I took a class on Accountability, and in the discussion, I received so many answers to the question: “How can I honor my commitments to myself?” There were several strategies for achieving long term goals, but the two that resonated most with me were to be kind to myself when I slip or don’t get the results I had hoped for, and to give myself very small goals that will help me get to my larger goals. It was a life changing class for me because it came at a time when I was open for solutions. I now know what I need to do to move forward.
May you also find the solutions to the problems you are facing.
More to come.