This morning I competed in a duathlon (3.1 mile run/15 mile bike/3.1 mile run) and at some point during the brutal (hilly & driving rain) bike portion, my mind went to the subject of how we feel we deserve stuff. I definitely felt like my friend, Ian, whose race this was, deserved a big kick in his British arse for designing this punishing course, where a couple of times I wondered if I would tip over, the hill was so steep that my bike was barely inching forward. Perhaps even more painful, though, was the acknowledgement that much of my suffering in life has occurred because I felt like I deserved something.
On the way to the race I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Bubble Hour. One of the women was admitting that back when she used to drink (she is now in recovery), her drinking rituals often revolved around times of the day, or situations, where she felt that she deserved a glass of wine (which then, as her alcoholism progressed, which it almost always does, led to another and another and another…). It was 5 o’clock, which meant now she had to deal with making dinner and bathing the kids, during their “witching hour” so she deserved a glass of wine. Or, her husband was being an unempathic clod, so screw him, she deserved a comforting cocktail. Or, she was so damn bored of the menial domestic tasks, she deserved a drink that would make her life seem more interesting.
I’m guessing by all of the drinking mama paraphernalia available at our local TJ Maxx and gift shops, I’m not the only mom that would relate to this entitled buzz.
The women on the podcast started to discuss how self-absorbed and misdirected this type of attitude and behavior had been. One of them pointed out that she hates noise, particularly of the kind that happens when her kids, toddlers at the time, were fighting. Alcohol would help her numb out her feelings, which once sober she realized were not as she had believed (“I hate noise”) as much as, “I feel like a terrible mom.”
I thought about all of this when I wasn’t cursing out Ian (race director), or wondering how I was going to dislodge my very uncomfortable wedgie without falling off my bike, or wishing I could stop and pet the baby sheep I rode by. I thought about this sense of entitlement, this “I deserve to indulge in my misery” and how habitual of a practice this can become. And how harmful it is.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. This has been a challenging day for me to some extent for the past 12 years. My mom died 12 years ago, a month after I had my second child. So, I miss my mom, especially on Mother’s Day. And I have had some really tough times navigating being the mother of two (no one told me having a second child is exponentially harder than one, especially during those first few years!). Quite frankly, some of my favorite Mother’s Days the last few years were the ones spent at the Ragnar relay race (200 miles of running a relay with your 12-person team), knowing my kids were happily home with their dad or grandparents and I could be carefree, running, laughing with other moms. No laundry, sibling fights, cooking, letting the dog in and out, in and out… A couple of days where I could just be Me. I deserved this treat, especially on Mother’s Day!
Individually, and as a society, we hold dear to and promote the right to abuse ourselves because we deserve it. You run a 5k, you earned (deserve) that muffin. You had a long day at work, you earned (deserve) the beer and pizza and mind-numbing TV show. The occasional soothing is fine, but at some point it can become a habit, and lead to progressive dis-ease.
The thing is, aside from piling on pounds and other yucky stuff like debt, inflammation, stress, diseased organs... this is rarely a helpful way to go through life. I could be a mom with a higher degree, fluent in several languages, at one point making a small fortune, and now resentful because my day is full of diapers and kitchen duty. I could be someone who has experienced the inevitable pain that comes with being human, and I now choose to live life in a way that is a self-fulfilling prophecy of destruction. Either way, I am making a choice, today, to live in this negativity out of a sense of entitlement. Do these situations suck? Yes. Is life unfair? Yes. Is this mindset of deserving helpful? NO.
When I was almost done with the bike ride and was mentally back on good terms with race director Ian, I had the thought that all of this entitlement and “I deserve this drink/ cookie/ pity party/ chip on shoulder/etc” was not something Brene Brown would include in her definition of wholehearted living:
I am worthy of love and belonging.
If I truly believe this, which I now do, and perhaps haven’t always, then I can let go of the “I deserve this” mindset. Whether I am choosing an unhealthy drink, food, reaction to a person or situation – am I choosing this because I truly enjoy it and desire it, or am I motivated by a sense that I have somehow been wronged and this is how I can balance out the unfairness? And on the flip side - when I am choosing to practice self-care by "indulging" in a Ragnar weekend or a FuXion event or an evening out with friends, am I doing it because I "deserve" it for all of the crap I put up with or am I doing it because it gives me joy?
During my five months now of clear-headed sobriety, of listening, reading, connecting, feeling, this is one of the most profound realizations I have had. I am worthy, because God loves me unconditionally. So when I feel frustrated, bored, angry, jealous, under-appreciated, misunderstood, lonely, out-of-place – or happy, accomplished, celebratory – I do not need to numb those feelings, or to drink “at” them or eat “at” them because I deserve the comfort, reward, revenge, or other momentary satisfaction I get from the choice or behavior. I do not "deserve" to identify as a victim, because of xyz situation in my life. Once I fully understand that I am worthy, all justifications of “deserving” something sound immature and bring to mind the image of Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka. YUCK.
So, I think of this now each morning, one morning at a time: I am worthy. I am enough. I don't need to deserve anything. God is love and joy and I am here to be a conduit of those feelings.
On the other hand, I totally deserved the generous prize I got for placing 2nd overall female in the fabulous, punishing Wingathlon Duathlon.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.