Monday, 3 May 2010

Reward and Deserve

Some thoughts on a Sunday.  Please forgive the fact that inevitably they are generalisations – I have to start somewhere to make sense of it.

As dieters we’re forever saying “when I get to ‘X’ goal, I shall treat myself to ‘Y’ “.  I’m no psychologist, not even an amateur dabbler, but common sense tells me this came from childhood, when good behaviour was rewarded by adults.  Bad behaviour was punished by withholding said treats, or something else that gave pleasure.  Carrot and stick. 

So when we grow up, there aren’t ‘adults’ around to tell us what to do, and at first it’s wonderful.  With chins jutting out defiantly we do what we want, because there’s nobody around to tell us not to.  Don’t make your bed if you don’t feel like it, don’t bath for a week, have iffy relationships, eat what you want.  Maybe not all these things, but some of them.  A mini-anarchy reigns, for a while. 

Some people always know when to stop, so they don’t need the carrot and stick.  We on the other hand sail on through the red lights, continuing to do that which our parents had tried to keep under control, and which is now – well – out of control.  How do we deal with it?  Where weightgain is concerned, by giving ourselves a good talking to, and promising ourselves rewards if we succeed in pulling back – in other words by acting as child and parent at the same time.  Outlaw and policeman.  Hunter and gamekeeper.   This incompatibility sets us up to fail, and we feel wretched as a result.    The infamous cycle has begun.

Take another scenario.  Not all of us are lucky enough to have had happy childhoods, to live happy ever after in a good relationship, doing fulfilling things, free from significant financial penury, enjoying reasonably good health.  Some have sad things happen to us when we were little, or as adults – perhaps over which we had no control.  We may not say it out loud, but to ourselves, or the mirror, we’re saying “this isn’t fair, I deserve better – I deserve to be happy/be slim/live longer”. 

I’ve thought long and hard about this one, because it’s painful to me, but like a gerbil on a wheel I keep coming back to the same conclusion:  our unhappiness is often caused by our genes or by other people, it’s true, but it’s still random that it should have happened to us specifically.  No shining light appeared in the sky and an accusing finger pointed down at us saying ‘you shall suffer’.  The cruelty of our downs is random, a combination of circumstances.  So it’s not that we deserve or don’t deserve anything.  On the other hand, we can make our own "ups".

Again, it doesn’t take a sleuth to figure out why we think this way:  society can’t tolerate unhappiness in children.  I find the sight of a depressed child (as opposed to a cross one) unbearable, and my first thought is “what’s being done about this?”  There are organisations and institutions set up to help – plenty of adults trying to banish young misery. 

And then comes the adult variety.  We grow up, we’re unhappy and …somehow… we’re waiting for someone to come and enfold us in their arms and say “this isn’t fair, you shouldn’t be unhappy – come here and I’ll make it better”.  Maybe if we’re lucky somebody did – but I would guess that for most of us it didn’t.   We’re on our own, we have to think of the solutions ourselves.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we complain to anyone that will listen that life is unfair and we deserve better.

What I’m therefore suggesting is that we tend to react like children to these two situations –
I’m being good therefore I will give myself a reward,
I don’t deserve all that is happening to me.

Amanda has written an inspiring post today on making the best of things - here’s a flavour of it:  “Enjoy what you have.  Appreciate your blessings.  Recognize your progress.”   I think this creates the right frame of mind to make our own luck.   So why not look at ourselves squarely in the mirror and take adult responsibility for our actions?  Say instead –

I don’t need rewards for achieving my goals,
Bad luck is cruel, but random.
I can make my own good luck, and it won’t matter
whether I deserve it or not.


A very special thank you to Sandy Lee for her Lollipop Award post of the week.  It’s very special for me to have this sort of recognition.  Thanks so much Sandy!

Photo Finish –
From Lonicera’s non-digital archive

A Sunday afternoon in Portishead

John tries out "El Churro", his radio-controlled boat,
on Portishead boating lake

"El Churro" in all its glory...

Cricket on the green...

face painting...

...wearing a new outfit...

The view across the Severn estuary
to the steelworks at Llanwern, in Wales

Portishead is known for its wonderful sunsets



amandakiska said...

Those photos are incredible! You are so talented. This is a great post - great insight!

Sandy Lee said...

Great post and something to think about. We tend to always "get something" as a reward but why do some of us choose food. We really are a work in progress and each post brings us closer to realizing we aren't alone and maybe we will figure it out. Off to read Amanda's post. Glad you like the Lollipop award-you deserved it!

Girl Bandit said...

I am going to have to read that again after I have thought about it...thanks!!! Once again your pics are you do it for a living???

Bianca J said...

Great post and lovely photos.

DocSly said...

Once again, your words are rich in meaning and special to me. I love the pictures too. Take care

Cindylew said...

You give us all so much to think about...great post. are absolutely them.

oozyxena said...

Hiya Caroline.
I have not been on the PC at all of late. It was lovely to read your blog, you are such a wonderful writer, you always seem to hit the spot. I love the pics too.
All is wonderful with me, I will post some pics soon, Sona my sis is getting married on Saturday, she has lost 7 and half stone and looks fab as you will soon see when I post next (after the wedding)

Zena xxxxx

Lonicera said...

Thanks so much for your nice comments. The problem with photography as a career is that there's no money in the interesting stuff, unless you belong to a library, and spend most of your time travelling and looking for pictures - what you're seeing are images accumulated over many years. It's lovely to be able to put new life into them.

Zena, have left a message on your blog - so glad you've written, dying to see the skinny new you! The bandits whose blogs I read don't know you, and we all need inspiration, so will love seeing your photos. Hope the wedding goes well.

Zanna, travelling tart said...

Interesting thoughts here Caroline and I think one of my big breakthrough was my shift in thinking to seeing food primarily as a fuel - I still enjoy food but it's no longer a focal point of my life. Trouble now is I see a glass (or three) of wine as a reward for a long hard day at work. Ah well one thing at a time!!! Lovely the photos - but then I always do - such a treat at the end of your posts. Zxx

Runnergirl said...

Brilliant and thought provoking post, and spot on in my case. I spent most of my childhood being told that "life isn't fair" whenever something unjust happened to me. And as an adult I find myself saying the same thing about being overweight. It does require a mind set change, and although professionals can help in some cases, I think it's got to come from within us. I know that if I overeat I will put on weight, but still I do it - because I love food, and because I can, because there's no parents telling me I'm not allowed it, or should I be eating it. I've gotten too good at blocking out their voices in my head. It's my way of sticking two fingers up at their nagging. I've just realised that. I never made the connection before. Thank you.

Lonicera said...

Zanna, I love reading about your fun life, and much appreciate yours and Runnergirl's comments (Runnergirl, have left a comment on your blog).
Thank you all!

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