Dropping the Ball without Dropping Yourself

I remember the crumbs falling around my feet as I stuffed my face.  I ate the cookies faster now, almost not tasting them.  I happen to love frozen baked goods; somehow when they are frozen they compact and it’s almost like you can eat more.  What a mess. I had “tried to be good” for most of the day, but the stress of putting my kids to sleep had finally gotten to me.  Half rebellion half coping mechanism I had mustered my inner bear, and rummaged through the freezer, trying to find a hidden homemade treat.

How did this happen? Certainly I was on plan and not binging?  Really, it happened in the days before, when I had made compromises to my eating plan based on the rationalization that just because I was in LA (where there is an abundance of kosher food) and not at home in San Diego (where we don’t have any kosher restaurants) the sushi, salad, chips, etc were once in a lifetime fleeting opportunities that I had to pounce upon in order to enjoy.

I have always loved being a victim. I became aware of that love about a decade ago when I started ‘working on myself.’  In my mind, despite all the effort, my first inclination is to see myself as a victim.

Everything in my life naturally happens to me without it being my fault.  It wasn’t my fault I was stressed, so I ate.  Or angry, so I yelled.  Or scared, so I didn’t take action.  It just happened.  A lot of time I like blaming G-d for all my shortcomings.  Becoming religious only magnified this.

Add this to my voice of inner negativity.  Ironically, when I do mess up, I still talk to myself as if I WAS my fault, and pass judgement on myself for the failure.  “What a loser!”  “What a failure!” “You’re so fat!” “I hate you!”  The dirty secret that I never shared until now is that these statements of fact that I naturally find myself articulating aren’t voices of the past — I still say these things to myself, even after all the time trying to eradicate them.

It’s no wonder why Elul and the time entering the High Holidays is a time that is very stressful for me. On one hand, I feel like a victim; waiting anxiously and without control for G-d to judge me for the next year–maybe I’ll be poor, maybe I’ll be fat, maybe I’ll never change another person’s life. On the other hand, the negative voices  creep up and say hey, deep down, that’s what you deserve.

But what if (and trust me, I implement this in my life — its a lot easier to say than to do) the entire victim/negative mentality was itself a choice? Granted you can’t chose that its there, but you can choose if you listen to it.  Acknowledging things happened and moving on is just as much a choice as listening to it and letting it cripple you for the next period of time.  Telling yourself “no, I’m not a loser, I just tell myself I am” is just as valid as accepting it as truth.

One of the reasons I am so obsessed with surrounding myself with people who I deem to be successful (however I want to define it) is that their mistakes aren’t really mistakes. These people are largely consistent, and when they mess up they just keep going.  That’s actually what consistency is.  That’s how you gain the momentum to make the big changes and adopt the big habits.  You fall, you drop the ball, you hear all the mental noise, then you say “OK, I’m going forward.”

Learning to love losing is what separates the winners from the losers, if there is such a thing.  Ever client lost, every ball dropped, every cookie you consumed when you told yourself no means something: You tried.  You wanted.  You endeavoured.  And you can focus on the fact that you tried, and you can tweak your strategy, or you can ball yourself up, tell yourself you suck, and decide everything you ever wanted was too much for you.  Wander back the cubicle and hope someone else goes for your dreams.

This past Shabbat, I attempted, as I try to do as much as I can (right next to meditating and writing down my goals) to talk to G-d.  And so I started complaining.  Why this? Why that?  But thanks to some of the interviews I had done the past week on my podcast Lift Your Legacy, I stopped and said to myself “this mean G-d I am talking to that’s causing all my problems isn’t even real.  The real G-d is all good and loves me.  What would He say about all this?”  Immediately I shifted.  I felt good, and I got answers–like practical solutions.

It was like this profound awakening I had a few months back.  I had a reason to go to a far out place deep in the San Fernando Valley, and found myself only a few minutes away from where my grandparents are buried.  I hadn’t been to the cemetery since we buried them close to eight years earlier.  I didn’t know what to do, or what I should do, but I went anyway.  When I tell people I’m not naturally so spiritual or sentimental, this is what I mean.

But when I sat there by their graves, and attempted to talk to them–again the whole time thinking “what am I doing??” I suddenly felt as if I was a kid again, running down the halls to their apartment, seeing their happiness at my mere presence.  Suddenly all the things I should be doing or wasn’t doing didn’t matter anymore.  They were proud of my attempts and gave me encouragement to keep going. But mostly they were just proud of me and thought I was doing a good job.

Honestly, I’ve dropped thousands of dollars on classes, therapy, gyms, hotels, coaches, and I never felt as empowered.  So what you dropped the ball?  You tried.  Learning to protect yourself from victimhood and negativity, not by being able to eradicate it, but by choosing to tell yourself a different narrative is what pushes you forward with a clear head and with happiness.

So as we move through the month of Elul, maybe ask ourselves if G-d is really going to be upset we don’t yet have the spiritual connection of our mentors, or made a billion (or even a million) dollars, or have the body we always wanted.  Sure, we might be upset about that, but the root to want to get up and keep going has to stem from something deeper.  I’m not watching what I’m eating, or working out, or working hard because I hate who I am, but because I love who I am, and I see potential in myself, and I just want to try to become who I want to be.  And along that path, when I drop the ball, or binge on cookies–well I did that, it happened, so clean up the crumbs on the floor, pretend you don’t know where the dessert for next shabbat went when your wife asks, and get out of bed the next morning, drink water, eat healthy, and hit the gym–or in my cast since I train martial arts, just hit/kick someone at the gym.  Or whatever the parallel situation you have going on in your life dictates you do.  Just keep moving because there is someone out there that thinks you’re worth it.  Even if it’s just you. Or G-d.

About the Author
Rabbi Rupp grew up as a reform Jew. He began to learn more about his heritage while in college, which lead him to Jerusalem where he became an orthodox rabbi. Having come from a broken home, Jacob was fixated on the idea of how to build a happy home life, which also pushed him in his mission. After becoming a rabbi, he lost 100lbs, and developed a life mission to bring Jewish values and concepts to Jews and humanity.
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