I came across a quote this morning that really resonated with me and was just what I needed to hear.
It said, “Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything,” by George Bernard Shaw.
While I don't believe those are the only two things that define us, I needed to hear this. Lately, especially with work, I’ve been finding a tendency to not see patience as a virtue, but rather as a sign of being wrongfully okay with not doing enough or pushing myself hard enough…. which is funny that I should have to learn this lesson again because of how much I had to learn it during my eating disorder recovery.
However, I believe that is how life is - there are so many opportunities for us to work on valuable things, and we’re given many chances to do so, which can seem like a negative but I like to see it as a blessing. I try to….
I wanted to write today about some things that helped me to cultivate patience during my eating disorder recovery journey as they're what I need to remind myself of now. I hope they may be able to help you as well, regardless of what your own journey of change may be.
Change is hard, but I believe what makes it truly hard is our impatience for the final outcome and how hard it is to hold onto hope and faith when we don't see the changes we want to fast enough.
With the help of many great therapists, and many self-help books, I found some ways to think about patience that made it easier to cultivate it and to hold onto hope when things felt like they were changing too slowly, or not at all.
1. A Turning Ship
One metaphor that really resonated with me was that of a giant ship in the process of turning. I remember it being described to me how this could not happen in one move or one instant, and that’s just how it was, but how it didn’t mean that steady progress wasn’t happening. I could see it so clearly for the ship, and in moments of frustration or hopelessness it helped me a lot to conjure up this image.
2. A Blossoming Flower
Another metaphor that helped me a lot was that of a flower blossoming. I liked how it was explained to me that of course the flower was meant to blossom, it was the natural progression of things, AND it still didn't happen overnight, or even at a perceptible rate.
I also liked the concept of how even if blossoming was the right thing for the flower, how it wouldn't be right if the flower bud was forced open too quickly.
This helped me to accept that even with things that are natural and meant to be, they aren’t meant to happen always immediately. Nature has its own timing, and it is up to us to do what we can within this natural flow, and then to learn to be patient and have faith.
3. Pause, Reflect, and Appreciate
Another practice that really helped me was to remind myself to consciously consider how far I had come, especially remembering how where I was now had seemed impossible at one point. This helped me to realize that the same would be true for my future - that just because something didn’t seem possible now didn’t mean it wouldn't happen with time and continued gradual effort.
It also helped me to feel more grateful for where I was, even if it wasn’t where I ultimately wanted to be, and to not feel quite so hopeless and discouraged.
4. Giant Bamboo
Finally, I love this message written by eating disorder therapist Carolyn Costin, which captures all of this so beautifully….
My Reflection On A Lesson Learned From Giant Bamboo
The first year it is planted, the tiny bamboo plant is watered & fertilized,
BUT nothing happens
It is watered and fertilized for another whole year
And nothing happens
Then another year, And another
But still nothing happens
Then, on the fifth year, it shoots up to the sky
And in 6 weeks grows 90 feet
To an outside observer, giant bamboo grows 90 ft. in just 6 weeks!
But, of course, in reality this growth takes 5 years
If the plant had stopped getting water at any time during those 5 years
It would have died.
What was happening all those years unseen, under ground?
An enormous network of roots was developing to support the bamboo’s
Growth spurt. Every drop of water made a difference
Growth takes patience and perseverance
When you are seeking growth, build your roots
Know that every step you take makes an impact
You may not see the change right away
But growth is happening.
Honoring our roots this season and always….
~ Carolyn Costin
- Are there any areas in your life that you wish were different, or are working on changing, where patience feels like a challenge? What are these?
- Is there one metaphor or consideration, out of the four I listed, that resonated with you?
- What are some ways that you can imagine using this metaphor or consideration to help you cultivate patience on your journey, and to help you hold onto hope?
With compassion and so much hope for your journey of patience and change,
Sarah Rzemieniak is passionate about helping people recover from eating disorders and body image issues. Sarah previously worked as an eating disorder dietitian before recognizing that her true passion was in the coaching and counseling aspect of the work. She then became a certified eating disorder recovery coach through The Carolyn Costin Institute, where she was supervised and trained directly under Carolyn Costin, world-renowned eating disorder therapist. Sarah recovered from her own eating disorder, which fuels her passion for this work. She provides individual coaching in Victoria, BC Canada and online worldwide.
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