A mentor once told me that you can only know the parts of yourself that you share with someone else. At the time, I remember thinking how wise that sounded but I was deep in my period of inauthenticity and fear and I certainly was not going to tell him the truth about my pain, suffering or lack of health. I was not going to tell anyone at that time. I went a very long time not sharing with anyone the choices I was making with regard to my health. I chainsmoked cigarettes in secret. I moved between periods of excessive eating, restrictive eating, excessive exercising, no exercising at all, staying up all night, excessive caffeine intake and attempted not to share any of it.
Looking back, the periods in my life when I have kept everything to myself were periods that I did not grow. The most growth I have experienced were in periods when I have tried to share my experience with another person. When you share, the benefits are immeasurable. The difficulty of course with sharing, is sharing itself, the emotional risk in sharing is deep. It is very difficult to share aspects of your health that you wish were better because then someone may hold you accountable or even worse, they might hurt your feelings and make you feel less than. When you make less than healthy choices, if the person you share with happens to be someone that cares about you, they may be disappointed or frustrated or scared. The courage that it takes to share is really quite significant. Many of my clients describe a period of time where their unhealthy choices were a secret. Lots of times, no one knows how serious a person's unhealthy choices are until it is too late.
Or sometimes, if a person shares, often someone will choose a person to share with that has the same unhealthy choices in order to maintain the status quo. We call those people drinking buddies, or foodie friends, friends with benefits, drug friends, or enablers. Or someone will choose someone to share with that is too scared of confrontation to challenge. We also call those people enablers. Or someone will choose a person who would rather see the person take the easy way out instead of suffering through the difficulty of choosing more healthy behaviors.
Ok. After saying all of that, including how difficult it is to open to someone about our health concerns, I hope that you will try it. Shed some light where it is dark. I know that you will reap the benefits. But, we must endeavor on this path cautiously. You want to share. But you want to be EXTRA careful who you share your health concerns with. The art of being genuine about your health concerns will be a good practice but before you choose a health buddy, be sure you are choosing wisely.
So, following is a way to choose a health buddy, someone you might be able to share your health concerns with and ways to test out your possible health buddies after you choose them. After that, you will find examples of statements you might make to your health buddy and statements they might make back:
1. Choose a person, share a small (but not too vulnerable/emotional) health concern.
2. Listen to the response.
(When I say listen to the response, what I mean is, take inventory of the response and decide whether this person is a good choice to share more. A health buddy will not purposefully hurt you when you share. They might be honest and confrontational but whatever they say, they will have YOUR best interests in mind. When taking inventory, look for empathy that is a good sign. Pity is not a good sign. Look for empowerment, very good sign. Stay away from potential buddies that encourage you to be a victim. Look for honesty. Move away from disingenuous. Look for wisdom. Do not continue to share with someone that is impulsive and lacks smarts. Look for gratitude that you are sharing. Narcissistic people who believe you owe them your information are not good health buddies. Look for curiosity, people who already know everything won't have much to offer you.)
1. "I think I have a problem with drinking too much soda"
2. "Soda is not that big of a deal, you could be drinking way worse things." No. Don't tell them anymore
2. "Why are you telling me, just stop drinking it." No.
2. "You don't have a problem with soda, 2 liters a day isn't a problem." No.
2.* "That's great that you figured that out!" "Soda is not healthy when you drink too much" "What gave you that realization?" " Do you know what you are going to do about it?" "Is there anything I can do to help you?" Yes!!! Yes!! This might be your buddy. Keep trying them. Keep sharing. See if they keep giving you supportive answers!
1. "I know that I don't get enough sleep and I think it is making me depressed."
2. "No one gets any sleep anymore. Drink an energy drink" Nope.
2. "You are not depressed cause of sleep deprivation; you are probably depressed cause of our job." No.
2. "I can't get any sleep either. Let's talk about how I can get more sleep" No.
2. * "Wow! Look at you figuring things out!" "What is keeping you up at night?" "Do you need to talk to your doctor maybe about what you are eating or drinking for caffeine?" "Maybe I can check in with you periodically to see if your sleep is getting better?" YES!!!!!!!!!!!! GREAT health buddy screening answer! Keep trying with them, they really might be a keeper!
1. "I am always late to work because I can't stop watching the news in the morning. It makes me drive really fast on the way to work and have crazy road rage."
2. "No one cares whether you are late for work." No
2. " You poor thing. Probably nothing you can do about that." No
2. "Stop doing that." No
2. * "You are really brave for admitting that you have road rage and you are late for work!" "I am glad you are thinking about this, road rage is really dangerous." "What do you think it is about the news that makes you feel like you have to keep watching?" YESSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! What an insightful health buddy, we love this person!!