Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Secrets to Being Fit and Fab: Fight Back Against the Crows of Doubt

PHS editor Michelle Styles examines why learning to conquer self doubt is so key to successfully keeping the weight off.

Like many women, particularly published writers, at times I suffer from The Imposter Syndrome. It is very easy for me to remember what it was like to be unpublished, and what it was like to be fat.

My persistently critical self or Monkey Mind likes to whisper that both of things are still the case and when you add in a poor review or two or perhaps you still haven't lost your C-section overhang , the Crows of Doubt can start to flock. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed  or that for some reason you don’t deserve this. It is very easy to become your own worst enemy.

 For me, eating has always provided solace. However, it doesn’t solve the real problem which is recognising and celebrating my achievements. As well as recognising that I do have a choice.

The big thing to combat the Crows of Doubt or Imposter Syndrome is to make sure you can remember how far you have come. Things which were once dreams are now a reality. They can’t be taken away from you.

First of all with reviews which can be a real cause to eat unhealthy for me, you have to accept that you don’t write for everyone. There are some people who will not like your book or will not be engaged with it.  That is fine. You don’t like everything. Someone not liking your book does not take away the joy you bring to the people who really get your book and love it. You are writing for the people who take joy in your books, not for the people who want to mock or for some reason just do not connect with your writing.

Mostly  when I purchase a book, I don’t bother reading the reviews. It depends on the back cover copy and if the synopsis sounds like it is something I might read.  However when it comes to my own book, I always people to enjoy the experience. It took me a long time to get to the point of realising that not everyone will and that is okay. A bad review does not take away the joy of being published or the fun of finding out that some readers do connect with my books.

 It has helped me to understand that lots of other people get bad reviews and roll with it. For example, Tracy Anderson really works for some people (myself included) but some people don’t like it and are quite vocal about it.  With a review, the choice is mine on how I look at the reviews.

It also took me a long time to realise that I had earned the title of a published author. It was not an easily accomplished dream. And despite what my Monkey Mind says, they don’t suddenly revoke it. Nor does being published in the romance genre make me less of a published author.  Equally I know that there are other authors who are far bigger stars than me.  But it is my career and my books I can control, nothing else. Envy serves no purpose.

It is easy to focus on the work in progress that isn’t going right, rather than the books which have gone right.  Your Monkey Mind can have fun undermining your confidence if you let it. The key is to learn to talk back to the Monkey Mind.

The same thing is true about my fitness. Every day I have a choice to workout or not.  My choice, not my Monkey Mind’s. I know how hard won my shape is and the various struggles I go through.  It is easy to focus on how far I still have to go (can perfection ever be reached? Do I want someone else’s idea of perfection in any case?) It took me months to realise that how my body looks and how I feel about it is up to me. I have to talk back to my Monkey Mind and question it, rather than assuming it is always correct.

When I catch the Crows of Doubt beginning to circle, I take aim and decide to make positive proactive choices,  rather than taking the reactive negative one of eating.  The only problem eating solves physical hunger.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance. Her latest His Unsuitable Viscountess is available now (from 1 August as an ebook). You can read  more about her books on her website


  1. This is all so true, Michelle. As someone who has eaten both for comfort AND celebration all my life, learning to wait until I feel hungry is proving difficult. I find drinking water and chewing gum a great help, fwiw.

  2. Christina -- I find drinking beetroot and spinach juice also helps for some reason. It is a matter of getting the right nutrients and then sometimes the cravings go.
    Chewing gum just used to make me hungrier.