By Lauren Whitman
What’s Your Badge of Courage?
Everyone is known for something- it’s their “Badge of Courage” (BoC for short). People describe these people quickly like saying “She has a quick wit,” or “He’s very tall.” Maybe it’s something like my Aunt Mildred who always brought my father fig newton cookies until the day she died (truly, well into her 80’s she would not arrive at a family function without those cookies. I know nothing else about this lovely woman). Or maybe you know someone like my Aunt Ethel who cursed like a pirate or the person with perfect penmanship or the “go-to” person for knowing how to repair broken furniture. It could be almost anything. I have a friend that could not say a bad word about anyone even if she tried – being sweet and sunny is what she’s known for – her “Badge of Courage”, something she is well known for and does consistently.
What if your Badge of Courage is affecting your health? What if you’re known for being the guy that always eats an enormous plate of food or the guy that can still stand and carry on a conversation after drinking 14 beers in an evening? What if your BoC suddenly has to change because it’s putting your health in jeopardy? How do you make a change that will so clearly affect how your friends see you – your BoC?
How Do You Change?
First, you must identify what your BoC is! You may have more than one but chances are they all fall into a general category. Yours may not be very obvious and it may have many features. People get connected and committed to your BoC so that their behavior is inexplicably linked to yours. It sounds strange but did you ever try to do something that would help you get healthier only to have your friends and family push you to not do it? Changing your diet can be a minefield for this very reason – everyone around you is committed to knowing you to be that person that brings the sweets to the office or who will go out for drinks every night – or maybe it’s that you love cinnamon rolls so they can’t figure out how to relate to you if you will no longer eat that food (trust me, they get over it).
When you make a change, people are caught off guard. They want everything to be the way it always was in the past. You shake things up when you change. By making such a change you call attention to unhealthy behaviors which reflect badly on their choices. If you are doing something to get healthier, they may feel that you are judging them or that they need to hide that behavior (a conversation for another day). Assure them that this is not the case but that, for you, the priority needs to be on your goal (reducing pain, avoiding heart issues, etc, whatever issues you are trying to avoid or change) Some people let this opposition stop them from reaching for their goal, maintaining their health or shifting to new behaviors that can make their life much easier. Some give up because it is just too hard to continuously fight against the comments and efforts of loved ones to push them back to their old habits.
Sabotaging or Supporting?
Let’s take a moment and examine how you may be sabotaging your friend or loved one’s goals. First, do you ask if they “want more food”, or the food you are offering, more than once? Do you continue to take them to restaurants that make it difficult for them to stay on target with their goal? Do you invite them to your house for a meal then serve foods that are primarily pasta, potatoes or bread? Do you schedule events at times that conflict with their exercise or mindfulness practices? These are sabotaging efforts.
Supporting Your Friends’ Goals
Friends frequently do things together but sometimes changing the way we eat can be very personal. Everyone’s body works generally the same but personally different as well. To help a friend reach their goal is a noble pursuit. Supporting friends in success or failure is important. Have you asked them what their goal is and how you can be supportive of that goal? Asking and really listening to them may be the real key to supporting and not sabotaging! Finding new things to do together with the changes in mind will awaken you to options you never considered.
Strategize for Success
To be successful and get the true support of those around you, you’ll need to be candid with them about what you are working toward – your goal! Be sure to be clear that you are not looking to turn your friends into a herd of “Moms” but that you will need them to not push you to be part of things that are clearly counter to your new direction. Remind them that you can still go out to dinner, but you have to select menu items thoughtfully and that you can still go to the movies without needing to eat a jumbo popcorn and a XL beverage. Those that are special to you will catch on and be your best cheering squad! You may also, just by proximity, help them get healthier too! (but don’t mention it, it tends to make people go rogue and work to sabotage it for themselves).
Who Is Lauren Whitman?
Lauren Whitman, is a Certified Health Coach with training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and OPTAVIA as well as a BS in Psychology and Sociology and a Masters degree in Business. Lauren lives in Gateway with her husband Mike. You can reach out to Lauren for a FREE Health Assessment by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 207-215-6767.