“So, Miranda, have you been exercising?” Ugh! I hate that question. If you visit a cardiologist, plan on them asking you that. I know its coming, but I still freeze every single time. Like a deer caught in the headlights. What do I say? Exercising is hard for me even on my “feeling good” days. I would rather be doing something else. Sometimes I will get into a good routine for a couple months, and then I start struggling physically. I’ll have to back down on my exercise routine and before you know I’m not exercising again. So honestly, the answer is usually, “No.” And I have found that as hard as it is for me say, “No”, that it is better to be truthful and realistic. Denial prevents growth, and I don’t want to live there. So let’s examine how denial prevent growth?
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How Denial Prevents Growth
When we live in denial we prevent the reality of our current situation from causing us to be uncomfortable. If we are not uncomfortable with our circumstances, we tend to become more at ease and stay in a bad situation longer. We are all creatures of habits. It typically takes us a lot of discomfort to say, ” Enough is enough! I’m ready to change.” So if we repeatedly fall back on denial, we prevent the tension that will lead to growth. And at The Reluctant Cowgirl we are all about good healthy growth!
Now, before, I go any further, I would like to distinguish how denial can be normal and protective. If you just received some traumatic news (such as a loved one is sick or has died) denial steps in to allow us to process the information slowly or in stages. So there is a reason for denial. However, when it becomes a habit or a repeated coping mechanism it can be a real killer. Killer of emotional healthy growth.
What Does Denial Look Like?
Ignoring & Avoiding:
Sometimes we use denial to just outright ignore the whole situation. We may ignore that bills are piling up. We may avoid dealing with failing school grades. Avoidance can create overwhelming circumstances in our life and is one way how denial prevents growth. What was once a small stress begins to add up to a mountain size problem.
I have worked with way too many people who have created a monstrous problem when they loose their license. Their driving license is suspended for something simple. But they decide to drive anyway. So then they get caught and lose their license for a longer period of time. They can no longer get to work. So they struggle to make ends meet. And when their license suspension is over they cannot come up with the money to pay to get their license back.
What a mess! We all hate to admit when we have messed up. However, ignoring completely that there is a problem only makes a larger, more stressful situation.
If you struggle with avoidance denial, first, take a breath. Set small goals for yourself to work your way out of the problem. You don’t have to fix everything today. But you can take 2 small action steps this week. And often as you continue to slowly work on the problem you will start to gain traction. Other people may even step in to help, as they realize you are serious about addressing your obstacle.
If overspending and debt is a crisis you are facing, I highly recommend resources by Dave Ramsey. He has a great radio talk show that you can listen to online here. His book, The Total Money Make0ver is a best seller and is life changing.
Denial sometimes presents as constant excuses. “My son really is a good kid.” Of course, we all think our children are great. But if we are constantly having to excuse our kid’s behavior or our own actions then maybe there is more going on than we care to admit.
Do you find yourself having to cover for someone, by lying or creating excuses? This is an exhausting way to live. Sometimes we can get stuck here out of guilt. Often as parents we feel a lot of guilt. We feel guilty that our children may be struggling due to a circumstance in our life.
But is that really guilt? Often we are stuck in shame.
And shame can be a miry pit if not dealt with correctly.
For example, shame can allow us to deny and excuse behaviors in our children that lead to their destruction. Shame over a divorce, job circumstances or a lack of material possessions can often lead to parents over compensating. They feel that they “owe” something to their kids. You may see a flip of authority where the children are running the household and calling the shots. And this can lead to great stress in the household.
Do you think false guilt (shame) may be preventing you from dealing with reality? I so recommend Brene Brown’s book, I Thought it was Just Me (But it Wasn’t): Making the Journey from “What will People Think” to “I am Enough.”
Spinning a Good Tale:
This denial pattern can be hard to spot. Often we want to focus on the positives and that is good. However, if we have ourselves convinced that we have totally created a new habit when that is not the truth then we are in deep denial.
We have a chicken who has a habit of sitting on her egg. She can be found consistently on the nest day in and day out. Now that doesn’t mean she is on the nest every second of the day, but overall if you are looking for her, the first place you should look is on the nest. She definitely has a habit!
So before, we declare that we have a habit of doing something or we “never” do this or that, let’s make sure it is an actual habit. Otherwise our only habit is a habit of DENIAL!
This often presented itself in classes I taught for domestic violence offenders. Offenders would declare that they were not verbally abusive anymore, when in reality they just stopped the verbal abuse 2 weeks ago!
Stopping the verbal abuse is pivotal, but it takes a long time to actually create a new habit of communicating and an even longer time to earn back the trust.
Remember, we are not aiming for perfection. However, if you are trying to create a new habit, keep your feet rooted on the ground by stating, “I am working toward…” or “I’m in the process of learning to…”. Stating our actual progress shoves denial out the door and allows us to keep our eyes fixed on the race ahead.
I love that we can always be changing and improving for the better. Even if we realize we may have fallen into a bad habit,such a denial, treat it like a gift when it is revealed to you. You have been offered an opportunity to grow into someone even more beautiful!