Hi there! While I'm off exploring Japan for two weeks, I've asked some of my favorite dietitian bloggers to guest post and keep the inspiration coming! Today, I've got an amazing Wellness Wednesday post from my friend Kara. We were roommates a few years ago at a blogging conference and have stayed in touch ever since. She's one of those people that every time you chat, you connect on a deeper level. I think you'll enjoy that same honesty and authenticity in her post today!
A client in recovery from anorexia ushered these three loaded words to me during a session recently:
“I’m not normal.”
I asked her, “What does normal look like to you?”
She paused, took a minute to ponder and said she wasn’t sure.
I told her that I don’t think normal exists and that I think everyone is normal; we all just come with our own unique stories but that we’re walking down the same road called life, sharing in this human experience together.
This topic of “normality” comes up a lot in the work I do and in my own life. Frankly, I think it comes up for most people and I’ll tell you why in a moment. Have you ever asked yourself “Am I normal?” or “Is this normal?”
Yeah, me too.
All during my engagement to my now husband, my fears about marriage sent me into a downward spiral, “surely this isn’t normal,” I’d tell myself because surely women only feel pure bliss before getting married. Yeahhh…turns out, not so true. My eyes were opened up when I found the work of Sheryl Paul and Allison Moir-Smith – I felt like they were talking directly to me but of course, there are so many women out there having anxiety about marriage, relationships and the big one, LOVE.
Or, even more recently this came up for me while reading the book, Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sexlife, by Emily Nagoski, which was recommended to me by a dietitian friend when I asked for book recos via Facebook for my honeymoon last year. And I totally didn’t get the Come As You Are title until I Googled it and read the entire title. Ahhh, I see what you did there, Nagoski ;).
The ENTIRE book is based on the premise that NO MATTER WHAT is coming up in your sexuality, you are NORMAL. And I was like oh okay, so once again, I’m not the only woman who’s asking herself some version of “Am I normal?” Also, side note, this book is fabulous and the author talks to you about sciencey-stuff like you are her best friend and you’re shooting the shit over drinks at a bar. I also love her because she’s a supporter of the health at every size and body positivity movements and talks about how these things play out in women’s sexuality. I feel like every woman would benefit from reading this book.
Nagoski made this beautiful connection toward the end of the book that really struck me. In fact, it struck me so much that I began to tear up while sitting on the plane flying from Laos to Vietnam (also not the first time I’ve cried on a plane and definitely won’t be the last; crying happens, it’s OKAY).
Nagoski said when women ask me, “Am I normal?”, what they are really asking is, “Do I belong?”
WHOA. Cue tears welling up in my eyeballs.
She went on to talk about how one of the most basic needs of human beings is connection. We all want to feel like we’re in this together. We want to feel like we belong. And this torturous question of normality is really about our deeper longing to belong and feel connected to others.
The tears welled up because I thought about my clients, about me, about all of us just wanting to feel connected.
As human beings, we are wired for connection. UCLA professor and psychologist, Matthew Lieberman, wrote a whole book about it, titled Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect. In the book, Lieberman “explores research in social neuroscience revealing that our need to connect with other people is even more fundamental, more basic, than our need for food or shelter. Because of this, our brain uses its spare time to learn about the social world–other people and our relation to them.”
The next time you find yourself asking yourself, “Am I normal?” or telling yourself, “I’m not normal,” take a moment to pause and ask yourself the following questions. Journaling these out can be really helpful too.
- What is this thought trying to cover up? Because often times those intrusive, anxious thoughts we have (which are just that – thoughts – they don’t define who we are) are trying to cover up a different need, emotion or feeling that’s hard to feel and or listen to.
- If I was normal, then what? What would life look like? See what answers come up for you and then follow that up with if XYZ, then what? For example, if your response is “If I was normal then I wouldn’t be obsessing over food so much” follow that up with “And if I wasn’t obsessing over food so much then…[fill in the blank].” And keep going with it until you feel like you’ve unlocked that deeper desire within you.
- How can I fill my need for connection? More often than not, my clients find themselves turning to food to fill an unmet need. Maybe you’re turning to food to stop the intrusive thought of “Am I normal?” Maybe you’re turning to food to fill the void of not feeling connected. The next time you find yourself turning to food to fill an unmet need or the next time you feel the desire to binge, take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “what do I really need right now?” If the answer is connection or belonging, try a few of the actions below:
- Call a family member, spouse or close friend.
- Ask someone for a hug.
- Go for a walk outside and connect to nature.
- Sit in meditation to allow yourself to sit with the uncomfortable feeling and to connect to yourself. Try a loving-kindness meditation to start.
- Give to others. Maybe you volunteer your time for a worthy cause or maybe you just smile at a stranger walking down the street or actually look into the eyes of the person cashing you out at the grocery store and paying them a compliment. Even the smallest act of kindness can make a difference in someone else’s day and help you feel more connected.
- Connect to your body by taking a yoga class or treating yourself to a warm bath.
And the next time you ask yourself, “Am I normal?”, remember that the answer is always YES.
BIG thank you to Rachel for having me on the blog today while she’s off in Japan hopefully eating all the sushi and all the ramen! And a big thank you to all of YOU guys for reading my post today – I hope it was helpful. If you want more mindfulness inspiration, thoughts on intuitive eating or delicious seasonal recipes, head on over to my blog, The Foodie Dietitian and be sure to sign up for email updates! xo