I was going to subtitle this post, “When you shouldn’t give up sugar.” Because I get a lot of emails and questions about when/if you should embark on this path – and for many people, my honest answer is no. (I’ll explain why below.)
But this seemingly simple question speaks to a deeper issue: how do we know when something is or isn’t right for us?
This question feels especially complex because we can have a mix of needs and feelings about doing anything – whether it’s doing something that’s “good” for us – like eating healthier foods or exercising – or avoiding something that’s harmful, like sugar.
When I observe this inner dilemma in my own life, I find it interesting that there isn’t one set, pat answer. Sometimes, when I wrestle with my inner conflict, the result is heeding my inner yes. Other times, this inner wrestling match means honoring my inner no.
Mixed feelings aren’t wrong
Before I go any farther, let me share that this mix is essential and doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. In fact, the ability to mix opposing feelings and needs is one way we mature. (My mentor Gordon Neufeld has a lot to say on this topic.) Our very wrestling with opposing feelings/needs is how we become more conscious, develop impulse control, and embody our deepest values in our daily lives.
I’ve already written many posts about honoring our inner yesses and working through resistance. This is when we move through feelings of “I don’t want to” to get to the other side – to do the things that serve us, even though we don’t feel like it. It’s not an easy skill, and one I’ll spend a lifetime practicing. (I often joke the hardest yoga is getting to the yoga studio!)
So if this is where you’re at today, you may enjoy these posts on softening resistance and working with impulses, as they’ll speak more strongly to your needs. You also may be ready for a program like The 30 Day Lift and want to learn more about it.
Honoring your inner no
But in today’s post, I’d like to explore how we honor our inner no. What do you do when you sit with your many needs and feelings and realize that the wisest thing to do is to say no – even when it’s something you really, really want? For example,
- Would you say no to starting a weight loss or detox program when you’re overweight but know that what you’re truly needing – before weight loss – is rest?
- Would you say no to going on a sugar detox when the time isn’t right for you?
- Would you say no to a way of eating that guarantees a physical result you want when it isn’t nourishing to you emotionally or spiritually?
Whew – these are tough, aren’t they?
Why we don’t honor our inner no
In my own life, it’s often hard for me to set aside my ego driven needs (which are often based on what I look like) and honor my body’s deeper needs. It takes lots of patience and a soft heart for me to accept when I’m in a season of winter (needing to lay fallow) when I want to be in spring – a season of new life – or in summer, a season of growth.
When I’m in a season of winter, I also feel vulnerable in sharing my less than “together” self with the world – especially when I feel that everyone else around me is presenting their best, most together selves! This tension can bring up a lot of pushing, striving, driving energy inside, urging me to use force when my heart says no. This usually ends up in my pushing myself past my limits – and it hurts me every time. Still, it’s been a sticky habit for me to shift.
What you need to say no
So what do we need so we feel confident enough to honor our no – even when a part of us would like to say yes? How do we soften the striving, driving energy that pushes us past our limits?
It starts with safety. I need to feel safe enough inside my heart to cradle every messy, human part of me. This safety creates a warm softness, a willingness to care for my tender, vulnerable parts that need rest – instead of feeling resentful at them for being needy in the first place.
We also need compassion – in my case, feeling compassion for these striving, driving parts in me (oh, they feel so embarrassed by my super sensitive, tender parts!) and understanding the vulnerability that hides beneath my self aggression.
It takes listening – deep listening, working through the layers of needs. D. H. Lawrence put it this way: “Men are not free when they are doing just what … Men are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes. And there is getting down to the deepest self! It takes some diving. ”
And it takes surrender – opening to life’s limits themselves – and accepting what is; accepting what we can’t change.
Ironically enough, accepting what we can’t change – what Gordon Neufeld calls adaptation – is another way we mature. How beautiful: working through our resistance to get to a yes and accepting our inner wisdom to honor our no are both vehicles of maturation. Both are pathways for growth.
Peace with a no
This morning, I felt a lot of wishy-washy conflict about whether or not I should go to my regular yoga class. My body and heart kept saying no; my mind said yes. I wondered – should I push past my resistance and go? Am I being lazy? Am I too focused on getting this post written and blowing off exercise?
(Let me back up and say that my recurrent anxiety and depression has been acting up lately. I’m feeling very weary, emotionally very sensitive, and physically and spiritually tired.)
So as I listened to all these inner voices, I realized I didn’t need to exercise right now; what I most deeply need is rest. I let go of my desire to go to yoga class – and felt all the sadness and disappointment that arose from my not going – and continued to write, taking breaks to lie down and cuddle with my dogs. And it felt right.
There’s peace in this “rightness,” a sigh, an exhale – even with the inherent sadness of saying no to something I love to do.
The feminine practice of surrender
Saying no – honoring life’s limits, surrendering to what is, and acceptance – are feminine practices, and are not always valued in our masculine, mechanistic culture. Even in health and spiritual circles, there’s a lot of talk about breaking through limits (or having no limits), creating your own reality, and being unstoppable.
Ouch, that feels so painful to my heart. Instead, the voice of compassion arises in me, offering its wisdom: Life is so dynamic and complex; how can we possibly control every variable? And this voice of compassion advises me to let go, to surrender, to soften, to flow – to trust the greater unfolding.
There’s a season for everything. Sometimes, the wise response is to move forward. Sometimes the wise response is to commit, and to stop eating sugar. And sometimes, the wise response is to say, “Not now.” To honor your deeper needs. To rest. To lay fallow. To heal. And from that place, to trust that spring will – eventually – unfold.
Wanting more hands on help?
- If your inner voice says yes, and you are wanting to get off sugar, I invite you to explore The 30 Day Lift, a gentle program for compassionate habit change. Learn more here. In this program, you’ll learn more about the tools I describe in this article – mixing feelings/needs, surrender, and adaptation.
- Ready to begin? Buy The 30 Day Lift here.
- If your inner voice says that you need rest, you may enjoy reading these articles on sweet surrender, how you step into bigger shoes, and what to do when you’re resistant to helping yourself.