Joan is a 40 year old woman working in management at a large company. She’s also a Decode Your Cravings client, working to heal her relationship with food, body, and self because she’s finally come to the realization that ditching dieting and dealing with the shit that’s constantly derailing her is pretty much the whole game.

Anyway, we’re on a coaching call and she’s telling me about how she sits through meeting after meeting and rarely ever gives her input on important matters unless she’s forced to.

“Why is that?” I ask. Maybe she just hates meetings. I fucking hate meetings.

She tells me, “I get anxiety. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing. I’m afraid of being seen as incompetent.”

“Are you incompetent?” I ask.

“No, I’m very competent. Sometimes I’ve had advice that I didn’t give and the company made the wrong decision. If I had spoken up, maybe they would have made a different decision. I have a lot of experience at this company.”

As we talked further, a few things became abundantly clear:

  • Joan is trying to be invisible in these meetings. She’s hiding herself.
  • Her self-esteem is in such a place that imposter syndrome is overriding any confidence she has.
  • Her lack of participation in certain meetings, especially when higher-ups are present, has cost her promotional opportunities throughout her career.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that she wasn’t allowed to speak her mind as a child. Her household was one where children were to be seen and not heard. When she did try to speak up, it brought her a lot of pain in the form of shame, fear, and isolation.

For a child in this situation, being invisible is how you survive. I’m not suggesting that her parents would have done anything to seriously harm her, but for a child, the pain of being invisible is certainly less than the repeated trauma of trying to be heard.

Unfortunately for Joan, she hasn’t been able to realize that the tool that protected her is now harming her. Even though her parents are out of her current picture, the fear they installed lingers in her mind. It continues to victimize her. 

Her experience of “whenever I spoke up in that household, bad things happened” has morphed into, “whenever I speak up, bad things happen.” And in her mind, she has the perfect tool for that reality.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t surprised to hear that Joan eats emotionally. Mostly at night, during the classic decompression period before bed. That’s one of the reasons she joined Decode Your Cravings, to sort that out.

When I asked her how stressed she feels in general, the answer was something like, “not much.” Mind you, under-reporting stress is a favorite pastime of almost everyone I come into contact with.

Consider Joan’s situation. How stressful is it to go to work every day and spend so much time and energy hiding who you are, what you want to say, and who you want to be?

How stressful is it to worry so much about being seen as incompetent that you don’t speak unless it’s absolutely necessary?

How stressful is it to know that what you have to say is valuable, but to believe that it’s safer to suppress that value than offer it as a gift to the world around you?

How stressful is it to know that promotional opportunities have passed you by because of this?

And all of that just leads to more shame and guilt because then you start thinking, “what the fuck is wrong with me? How can I be this pathetic?”

She’s not pathetic, though. She’s scared. She’s hurt. She’s locked in a psychological prison. And she spends her nights medicating because eating feels a lot better than feeling. And hiding feels a lot safer than showing up in full. 

Here’s the real kicker: This was just our first call together. Who knows what else is beating Joan down. This is the world we live in. It’s a world full of people who have greatness inside them, yet after 80+ years on this planet it still manages to go to the grave with them.

I’m not saying that if Joan were to start speaking up in meetings it would exemplify putting her greatness into the world. I’m saying that if Joan can’t speak up in a meeting because of this baggage she’s dragging around, there’s no way her greatness is ever going to escape.

For sure, though, this baggage is a key driver of the emotional eating challenges she’s facing. As I’ve said time and time again, emotional eating (or binge eating, or not eating, or eating excessively clean, or overexercising, you get the point…) is not the problem, it’s a symptom. It’s a symptom that points to a degree of imprisonment. And with each degree of imprisonment comes a degree of unhappiness and of dissatisfaction.

That unhappiness and dissatisfaction ship you’re sailing around the world on can be turned around. Your greatness can be unlocked through food, movement, and mindset work. It has to be done this way. You can’t have a body you love if you’re living a life you hate. And you can’t have a life you love if you’re moving through it in a body that’s in shambles.

There’s a greatness inside you and I want to help you unlock it. It’s only going to happen if you choose for it to happen, though. Nobody is going to choose you—you have to choose yourself.

First, you have to stop believing the fairy tale that the latest and greatest diet is going to accomplish any of this for you. That’s a cop out. A distraction. Procrastination. It’s just another way of hiding. Another trip to the cafeteria of the psychological prison you’ve been living in.

Time to let the fairy tale of the magic pill go. Follow Joan’s lead and let’s do some real fucking work for once.

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