Letting Go of What You Can’t Control

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This blog post was originally posted on recoverywarriors.com on November 16, 2015 and can be found here.

As I drove home from work on Monday, I thought about how excited I was to be getting home earlier than usual. “I so need this,” I thought to myself, as I pulled into our garage, looking forward to the much-needed respite ahead.

That’s when I noticed something strange: The garage floor was wet. “I wonder where that water came from?” I thought. My question was quickly answered as I entered our house and found myself standing in water up to my ankles. It was clear: our house had completely flooded.

It turns out that a water pipe had burst upstairs, moving water across the upstairs floor and “raining” down through the ceilings. Needless to say, most of our house, furniture, and personal belongings were damaged.

It can be so difficult for us to wrap our minds around things like this that happen outside of our control. The fact is: There is nothing that I could have done to prevent this from happening. It just happened! The same can be said for a number of other things in our lives. For instance, we can’t control the weather, what other people say or do, or the fact that each of us will eventually die someday. At the end of the day, all of those things are completely out of our control.

This is not an easy reality for us to accept, which is why many of us find ourselves fighting against it by “tricking” ourselves into thinking we have more control over our lives than we really do. For instance, if you struggle with an eating disorder or disordered eating, you might use behaviors like restricting your food intake, over-exercising, purging, weighing yourself multiple times a day, etc., to feel more in control of your body’s weight/size/shape/health/etc. in order to ultimately feel more in control of your life at large.

So, what’s the problem with that? Well, for one, none of those behaviors change the fact that many aspects of our lives are truly out of our control. Even if we fight this reality, life will continue to throw us curveballs, and no number on the scale can prevent us from experiencing them.

In addition, eating disorder behaviors don’t end up helping us work through the real issues we are facing. Instead, they only serve to temporarily distract us from them, and end up leaving us with additional problems that make life even more unmanageable and difficult to navigate.

For instance, if our house had flooded like this eight years ago, when I was in the throws of my eating disorder, I would have most likely used the behaviors of restricting or bingeing and purging to temporarily numb, distract, and comfort myself during this time. While those behaviors would have allowed me to temporarily “check out” from reality and given me a (false) sense of control for a short period of time, I would have ultimately ended up creating far greater problems for myself and missed out on all that this experience could teach me. Engaging in behaviors would have also taken up most of my time and energy that I now get to spend tackling the necessary steps to resolve this issue.

Instead of continuing to fight for control over every aspect of your life, I challenge you to practice taking a step back and asking yourself: “What is truly outside of my control in this situation that I can practice accepting? What is truly within my control in this situation that I can focus on to help me move forward in a positive direction?” For instance, you can apply this to your body image. You cannot control the way that your body was naturally designed to be (e.g. height, body type, etc.), but you can control how you treat your body (e.g. accepting, appreciating, and nourishing your body vs. hating, criticizing, and depriving your body).

When we continually practice letting go of what we truly cannot control, it frees us up to focus on what we truly can control: how we decide to “show up” in life and respond to our circumstances. As I prayed on the night our house flooded, I pray for you Recovery Warriors now: “God grant them the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, courage to change the things they can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

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