Have you ever read something that immediately gave you goosebumps or left you with one or more of those “aha” moments? Well, nearly a decade ago that happened to me. After watching an Oprah Winfrey episode in which she featured the author of one of her must-read selections, I headed out to my local bookstore to pick up a copy of the book. That hardcover, Women, Food and God, would unknowingly change the trajectory of my life as I once knew it. Before I elaborate further, I will clarify that while the author does reference God, it’s really about the parallel relationships you have with food (or anything else really), your feelings and your body. The messages inside Geneen Roth’s book are intended to be a guide for addressing your core beliefs in life; they are applicable to one and all regardless of gender or religious background.
In addition to being naïve about the transformation that my Oprah-inspired purchase had in store for me, I also never would have guessed at the time that the book would remain a half-read feature later housed on a bedroom shelf of mementos held near and dear. Indeed, to this day, the latter part of Ms. Roth’s book is sitting untouched, yet to be discovered. The fact of the matter is that the takeaway from the first half of the book struck such a chord with me that I didn’t feel the need to continue on with whatever the rest of the pages had to offer. Instinctively, I knew that I found what I had silently been searching for and so I stopped reading at page 104 as marked today. A fait accompli, if you will. Just like that. And what was yet to come from the timing of my unfinished read was nothing short of miraculous in my eyes…
After spending the first thirty plus years of my life hiding behind a secret wall of shame and self-doubt having convinced myself of the seemingly universal human notion that I wasn’t good enough (good enough to love or be loved), I was done! I had had enough of not feeling enough. Feelings of inadequacy are a sad and difficult admission for anyone to make, but man, I am positive that I would be a gazillionaire if I had a dollar for every person on earth who ever thought the same as me. That limiting belief, the one that we are inherently not good enough, appears to lie at the heart of nearly everyone’s self-inflicted heartache. Stop for a moment and think about yourself and the inner struggles that you have experienced thus far. I would almost bet that if you are willing to peel back ALL of the layers of what is really behind those difficulties, you would find somewhere that some version of, “I am not good enough,” lies within. Honestly, if I could singlehandedly change one thing in the world, I would eradicate those five words from existence along with their ill-fated effects on humanity. Those untrue syllables subconsciously wreak havoc on us and our loved ones in ways that leave most of us feeling broken and unworthy for far too long; sometimes even for our whole life long unfortunately.
For me, my thirty-seventh birthday turned out to be my breaking point with my whole dysfunctional belief system. It wasn’t getting me anywhere and I knew deep down that I wasn’t being true to myself or to anyone else in my life for that matter. Coincidentally, my so-called protective wall that I had been hiding behind to keep me at a ‘safe’ distance so as to deflect any possible hurt, accomplished exactly that–I kept everyone out, including parts of myself. The realization would soon come that by doing so, I was only hurting myself more in the end by not admitting what I was doing and more importantly, why I was doing it. I CHOSE to ignore my own actions. In my mind, it was somehow easier to let people in only so far because then they wouldn’t have a chance to get to know the real me for fear that they wouldn’t like who they saw or worse yet, that I wouldn’t even like me–the “I am not good enough” syndrome at play. In return, by self-distancing, I would have nothing to lose if they walked away. If I was never fully invested or vulnerable, then I would never get hurt, right?! The problem with that is that I was never even giving myself a fair chance to find out who I was, who I wanted to be or what it was that I really wanted. Not quite the life I had envisioned for myself.
Does that mean that up until then my life was meaningless and empty? No, not at all. I was a successful professional who loved to travel, came from a good family, had been in a long-term relationship, owned a home, had pets and indulged in many outside interests and friendships. The life I was living seemed full and happy, but there was always that certain something that was missing. It turned out to be unconditional love sourced outwardly and from within. It is widely known that a lack of self-love often precipitates the inability to give and receive feelings of real love. Gratefully, the decade of self-work prior helped me to come to that significant conclusion and so came Oprah’s recommended read.
A few pages into Women, Food and God left me scrambling to find my yellow highlighter and a pencil for side notes–clues to a good read. My university profs would have been proud of me! I couldn’t help it, though. Everything that Geneen Roth said resonated with me and I didn’t want to miss a thing, much like Aerosmith’s similarly titled song. Her words were filled with truths, namely my truths and they were really, really good. Here’s a sampling from her prologue, along with my subsequent thoughts/realizations in italics:
“I don’t believe in inner children. I do believe that there are frozen places in ourselves (yes! like the wall I have erected since childhood)—undigested pockets of pain–that need to be recognized and welcomed (really?! how?), so that we can contact that which has never been hurt or wounded or hungry.” Ms. Roth immediately left me feeling hungry for more–more validation of what I had been feeling, more candor, more questions, more opportunities for reflection, more, more, more, so that I could stop feeling like less, less, less. Gees, and I wasn’t even at chapter one yet!
“… that my resistance to the pain was worse than the (actual) pain (itself)…” Aha! moment.
“As soon as the feelings come out, there is an inevitable recognition of the self-inflicted violence and suffering that fuel any obsession. And on the heels of that recognition comes the willingness to engage with and unwind the suffering rather than be its prisoner. The exquisite paradox … that when the suffering is fully allowed, it dissolves.” In other words, I need to quit hiding and start putting myself out there. You mean, by facing my fears of not being good enough, I can actually look at getting off of this crazy hamster wheel of a ride for once and for all?! Well, sign me up.
“To discover what you really believe, pay attention to the way you act–and to what you do when things don’t go the way you think they should. Pay attention to what you value. Pay attention to how and on what you spend your time.” Hmmm… by working so hard inwardly to keep people out, I am actually succeeding which isn’t what I really want, just what I think I want to keep me ‘safe’?! Holy mackerel! This book was meant to be.
And on and on it went with her words sinking in after each page feverously turned. She was writing about me. To me. Finally, someone who knew the real me and how to introduce me to her. Finally!!!
Fast forward to two weeks after my birthday and my half-read take of Women, Food and God. By page 104, I had come to the simple conclusion that all that I really needed to do was to get out of my own way of experiencing true happiness in life. I needed to surrender my previous limiting beliefs and begin anew. That day, my proverbial protective wall came down. I had no use for it anymore. I was done with it and there was no going back. I had turned a corner–I could feel the change all the way down to my toes. Right then and there, I knew that what I really wanted was to open myself up to ALL of life’s possibilities, not just some of them and not just with some of me invested. I wanted all of me and all of whatever ‘it’ had to offer. Yes, I wanted and deserved both because I was and I am worthy. I am good enough.
Within a day or two of my self-revelation, I had bookmarked Darren on a dating website that I had ventured onto in my quest to open myself up. In that one simple online gesture, I had found my future husband and partner in life, which I had previously neigh-sayed. My moment of surrender worked! I was about to discover an unconditional love and fulfillment that I never even allowed myself to imagine and you know what?! I was/am worthy of every bit of that joy and I am good enough. As an added bonus, I have found someone amazing to remind me of that important message Every. Single. Day. for which I will be forever grateful to Oprah, Geneen Roth, Aerosmith, and of course, my loving husband, Darren.