I use relationship self-help books to improve my relationship with my partner, James, and to build a better relationship with myself. I apply the tools and strategies suggested to how I interact with my inner “me.” Why? I truly believe that improving one’s health revolves around forming a better internal relationship; having a good relationship with your inner “roommate” is not optional; it is vital!
Really, almost any valuable lesson or concept is transferable. A lesson is simply a possible lens to view the world — a possible guiding principle.
I was introduced to Terry through the podcast Insights from the Edge. If you don’t have the time to invest in reading Terry’s entire book, I HIGHLY suggest listening to his episode.
I particularly love Terry’s concept of a “core negative image.” Regarding your intimate relationship, Terry posits that we develop a core negative image (our partner is naggy, lazy, doesn’t love us enough, or would do X, etc.). Then, when we get emotionally triggered, we look for examples to confirm our “core” image.
The creation of core images (or what I often call a “core narrative”) is not relegated to our intimate relationships. We develop a core narrative about who we are in relation to the world and our health. When we want to make an unhealthy choice, we rationalize the choice by focusing on facts that confirm our chosen narrative.
Here are some examples of core negative images and how we then use them to rationalize unhealthy choices …
“Why bother trying to change? I am unfit. I have no discipline. This workout and nutrition program is going to fail. I always fail. I am a lost cause. Why try? I should just eat that [cake, pop, cookie, etc.].”
“Everyone else has it easier. They are naturally motivated, enjoy being active, or have better genetics. It is not fair; my health battle is a constant uphill slog. I should just spend the day watching Netflix. Who needs the gym anyway? That is not me. Why am I trying to be someone I am not?”
“It is not fair that I constantly have to deprive myself. I work so hard and I am always doing things for other people. Life is not fair. I deserve this chocolate cake.”
If your ultimate goal is to NOT improve your health, go ahead and continue with these core negative images.
If your ultimate goal is to improve your health and be proud of your choices, you have to change your narrative; the trick is to learn to have appropriate responses and to make healthy, productive choices because you love yourself.
Now, there is always a kernel of truth to any “core negative image.” Your partner might sometimes be lazy, but the trick is to embrace that they are not ALWAYS lazy — and possibly more critically that you are probably also sometimes lazy. That is being human.
There is also probably a kernel of truth to your health narrative — you might have a history of falling off of your “horse”; you might have friends who have impeccable genetics; you probably do work hard — but that kernel of truth doesn’t mean you should have 3 pieces of cake and ice cream. Instead maybe the kernel is an indication that you should analyze your work-life balance and/or enjoy a small piece of cake after going for a walk. Health is about building a productive, measured, positive relationship with yourself where you can analyze your thoughts and actions and decide on appropriate, measured responses!