What’s The First Thing You Say to Yourself in the Morning?

The alarm clock goes off.

Your eyes flutter open.

Still drowsy from sleep, you turn over and glance up to see someone who looks remarkably like Senior Drill Instructor Gunnery Sergeant Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” standing over your bed.

He stares down at you, face like stone, eyes cold and unblinking, as he barks:

“Rise and shine, scumbag! Today you will eat healthy food and nothing but healthy food! You will exercise for precisely one hour – I do not give a rat’s ass about your so-called tendinitis! You will complete everything on your extensive “to do” list! I do not care if you did not sleep well or think you might have a case of the sniffles! There will be no excuses and no complaining! You will comply with these orders because your ass is mine!”.

You then shout “Sir, Yes, Sir!” as he harasses you out by bed by threatening to tear you a new something if you don’t submit to his demands within three seconds.

Is this how you start your day?

Of course it isn’t (at least I hope not).

The point I’m making is that we often begin issuing orders to ourselves from the moment we wake up.

Faced with relentless internal pressure, you need something in order to deal with it and keep going – food is that something.

As a result of our early experiences in life, we can develop a very demanding side to our personalities that puts pressure on us to Do Things Perfectly and Get Stuff Done.

How often do you tell yourself first thing in the morning “I’m going to stick to healthy eating today” only to find yourself bingeing later because it “all went wrong” when someone brought a birthday cake into work?

Maybe you tell yourself you have to exercise every single day for a set amount of time and the moment you break your regime – because you were too busy or got sick or just didn’t feel like it – you berate yourself for having zero self-discipline and give up moving your body altogether.

Perhaps you supply yourself with a list of daily tasks and then spend your life running around at breakneck speed trying to get everything done. Either that or you find yourself getting nothing done because you’ve suddenly decided it was vitally important to check your Facebook page or catch up with several episodes of Gilmore Girls from 2003 on Netflix.

If you put pressure on yourself in this way, you can spend your life feeling constantly stressed and harried.

How does this relate to emotion-driven overeating?

Because when you’re stressed, the likelihood is that you reach for food.

Faced with such relentless internal pressure, you need something for yourself in order to deal with it and keep going – food is that something.

Food becomes a reward, a release, a comfort or a diversion.

Further to that, if you’re under the whip of this demanding side you never get to appreciate how well you’re doing because no sooner have you achieved one thing then it rushes you onto the next. The overriding message is “whatever you do will never be enough and you will never be good enough”.

This sets you up for life-long dissatisfaction with yourself that begins every day with “I must do” and usually ends with “I’ve failed”. Then you lie in bed swearing to yourself that tomorrow will be different and the cycle begins all over again.

So why not take the pressure off?

Instead of Sergeant Hartman issuing his orders, what if you started the day by saying “Good morning, sunshine. What would you like to do today?”  You could then consider how you would really like to eat, how you would really like to move your body or how you would really like to spend your time.

Many things in life are out of our control, but what we say to ourselves isn’t one of them.

This doesn’t mean I’m handing you a Get Out of Jail Free card to bimble about all day and shirk your responsibilities – we all have our daily load. I’m just asking you to consider your preferences alongside your obligations and think about how you would really like to live your life. After all, it’s your life.

“But I need that part of me to motivate me”, you might argue. “Without it I won’t get anything done”.

But healthy motivation comes from the part of us that knows we need balance. The authentic and caring part of us that urges us to rest as well as to achieve, to play as well as to work, to meet all our responsibilities without forgetting to enjoy life.

Perhaps instead of “I have to eat healthily” you could think “I decide what I eat according to what will satisfy me”.

Rather than “I ought to exercise every day” maybe “I listen to my body about how it likes to move”.

As an alternative to “I must get everything done” you could say “It’s important for me to relax as well as to achieve”.

Many things in life are out of our control, but what we say to ourselves isn’t one of them.

Don’t set yourself up for failure by expecting yourself to be perfect. Be open to what happens today and how you’re feeling. Tell your inner drill sergeant to back the hell off and see what impact that has on your eating.

Above all, support yourself, care for yourself and remind yourself that you – yes, you – are absolutely good enough.

©️ Julie de Rohan 2018.

19 thoughts on “What’s The First Thing You Say to Yourself in the Morning?

  1. I love this post, Julie. It reminds me of one of the things I used to say when I got up, until I realized the effect it was having on me: “I have a lot to do today…”

    When I changed that to: “I have enough time to do everything I need to do today” (since technically all we ever *need* to do is breathe) it changed the way I take more time in my day to slow down and do one thing at once.

    Speaking to ourselves kindly and compassionately, even when we are struggling, is a path to ease and freedom. It may not be a habit for most of us who live with that inner drill sergeant, but it is worth paying attention to this inner dialogue and learning a more forgiving voice we can call upon. Thanks!

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    1. Many thanks, Cristy. Your comment really resonates with me – I used to say “I have SO much to do today” (sometimes I still find myself saying it). With that sort of start to the day, it would always feel like I never had enough time and rather than, as you say, slowing down and doing one thing at once, I would flit from task to task without really accomplishing anything completely.

      Much better to recognise that the drill sergeant is in charge and ditch that voice for a more reasonable, compassionate one. As you rightly point out – that is the “path to ease and freedom”. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment and for sharing your experience, very much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome, Julie! The way we start our day can really impact how it goes in the moments after that. Let’s set a positive tone 🙂 No Sergeant yelling at me, please!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, generally life doesn’t feel good with the drill sergeant in charge – glad you’re not having any of it! Good to hear from you, Christy, thank you so much for your comment.


      1. Absolutely.i went through that.I have been bulimic for nearly 10years and even when the acute phase was gone there was still this pressure to food when over-pressured but the problem was that I over-pressured myself so it was a real vicious circle.i must say the temptation is still there at time of overpressure and turn to food fir comfort except now I am aware of it .O spot the danger,I recognize it and prevent it.If I turn to comfort food is under a totally different attitude now ,with no guilt but the journey down here has not been quick or easy.Awareness is the key word,know yourself,your limit your strength and like yourself and accept yourself,that is the only thing that can really change how you look at everything .Thanks for sharing your thought and the post.im sure it will help many😊

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      2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, Ortensia. It sounds like you’ve come a really long way and are able to recognise your triggers. I love your advice – “know yourself, your limit, your strength and like yourself and accept yourself”. I would absolutely agree with that, it really does change our experience of the world. Many thanks for your comment, lovely to hear from you.

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  3. Sweet outlook. I know that for myself, the higher I set my goals the more than likely it is that I will fail, maybe not today, but very soon. I have learned that small and minor changes or adjustments have worked the best for me, I only set out what I know I can accomplish with minimal effort, it may seem too easy. But isn’t that the trick? If I can abstain from drinking a soda at lunchtime, then that is success, I just try to repeat that until I am used to it, then its time for another small change.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Absolutely – I feel that change is best achieved small and incrementally. That way we increase trust in ourselves and faith in our ability to develop. As you say, the higher you set your goals (and the more rigid) the more likely it is that you fail. Many thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. beautifully written… Love this so much… is it uncanny that people experience the same things? or do we just need to accept that we all are affected by the same things and more often than not respond to them in the same way… ?! I love how relatable this was “or catch up with several episodes of Gilmore Girls from 2003 on Netflix.” I binge watch Power or Orange is the new black…hahah… but I know exactly what you’re talking about…

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    1. I’m so pleased this post resonates with you. Maybe it’s just an indication that we’re all human and connected? Thank you for your comment, Keda (and for sharing your Netflix preferences!), I appreciate your kind words.

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