Training for the London Marathon in 2018 revealed stark parallels between the training and going No Contact with an ex. Even though at the time, I hadn’t done the latter for thirteen years, the same angst and doubt gripped me. I started from scratch with a dose of enthusiasm and optimism and quickly found myself battling perfectionism. I wanted things to be ‘easier’ and to be done already and was terrified of failing.
Getting out there and doing more than I was capable of, though, and then doing it again and exceeding the previous distance, made it clear to myself and those doubtful parts of me that I could do it.
When I’d freak out or have a rough day of training, I’d (eventually) remember that I wasn’t even doing one mile at the start. For me to have done, for example, five, I had to do one, two, three and four miles. Similarly, when I’d go through a breakup and have to distance myself, I had to have put in some effort to get to falling off the wagon. Yes, it was tough, but often it was my thoughts about [the breakup] and myself, not so much the process itself.
So strip out marathon training or breakup, and what you’re essentially doing in any situation where you’re trying something new, is building a new habit and shifting identity.
That “something new” might be running, giving up smoking, cutting back on something else, or taking up a new hobby, skill or practice, but it will challenge what you think you know about yourself. It will challenge your identity, which, incidentally, might be behind any self-sabotage. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone feels threatening. You’re doing things that don’t match the information you believe you have on file about yourself.
Let’s say that you were No Contact from your ex for six weeks and then you broke it. Maybe you were having a rough day and decided to text them. Or, maybe you gave in and finally caved to their repeated attempts. And so now you’re back to No Contact and feeling bad about falling off the wagon.
But you’re missing an important piece of data: You can go six weeks without being in touch with your ex. Deep down, you now know that you can do it. At the start of this, you might not have believed that you could get through one week or even a day!
If you make it to seven weeks next time, while, of course, it’s frustrating, you can’t ignore a fundamental truth: you can do six-plus weeks. And after a while, even if you go back and forth with yourself, eventually you’ll have to heed the data: you are capable of more than you think.