i want.

My whole adult life (and probably life before that) I have been a prisoner to obligations. Not real obligations, but obligations I put upon myself. Obligations that start with the emphatic “I need to…

lose weight.”

exercise more.”

be kinder.”

work harder.”

eat better.”

sleep more.”

drink less diet coke.”

drink more water.”

stop spending money on stupid shit.”

stop dating guys I don’t actually like that much.”

I think you get the point. So last week in therapy, I was dealing with some pretty shit news. No, I don’t want to get into it. The news itself isn’t important. What’s important is that it led to another obligation. Another “I need to…” And I don’t need anymore fucking “needs”. The weight of one more was just too much. And I broke down. Well, let’s be honest. I had been crying almost since crossing the threshold of my therapist’s office. But talking about this additional need I just…I was done. I felt so overwhelmed.

My therapist then reminded me that I don’t “need to” do anything. We revisited a conversation we’d had the week before about eating. I have this constant voice in my head telling me I need to eat better/less/healthier/etc. And he talked about how important it is, in those moments, to remind myself of what I want and to reframe what I’m saying to myself in that way. “I want to eat healthier because I feel better when I do.” “I want to eat less because I hate how I feel when I overeat.” The main thing is how empowering it is to focus on what I want and not make it an obligation.

So, for the past week, I’ve been focused on reframing and restating. It’s not easy. Being raised in a family of overachievers and a religion of obligations and a woman who wants to do everything “right”, “need to” and “have to” are what I know best. But this week has been so eye-opening. And when I can remember to reframe and focus on what I really want, it’s so much easier to live my life in a way that’s congruent with those wants.

I like to joke frequently that, “I do what I want.” And in my head, when I hear that voice saying, “You need to eat better,” or “You need to get more sleep,” my response is exactly that. “You don’t get to tell me what I need to do. I do what I want.” But guess what. When that’s my internal dialogue, I’m NEVER DOING WHAT I ACTUALLY WANT TO DO.

The truth is I want to eat better and I want to get sleep and I want to exercise and I want to be vulnerable and I want to be kind. But the obligation of “needing” to do something was blinding me to that because I was so busy fighting against…myself.  And when I can say, “I want…” I’m much better at remembering why I want to do something and making it about me and not about society and external expectations or influences. And when I state what I want to do the fight against myself never happens because the weight of obligation is no longer there…there’s nothing to fight against. What am I going to say to myself after I say, “I want to eat healthier”? No, you don’t?

So here are a few of the “wants” I stated this week when I was reframing.

“I want to go to be now because I am much more in control of my emotions when I get enough sleep.”

“I want to stop eating now because I do not want to feel stuffed.”

“I don’t want to buy that because I want to have more money in savings.”

“I want to be more vulnerable because I want to connect.”

“I want to ask for help with this project so that I don’t dread going to work.”

Such a difference.