Struggling with a Black and White Mentality

How much more would you participate in, in your life, if you were not so focused on the end result? But if instead you aimed to use processes to learn, grow, and to teach yourself something new. 

A few years back in 2014 Marco and I went on a snowboarding trip, just the two of us. We drove seven hours to get to the mountain, checked in, and enjoyed the day together. Knowing that I had a lot to re-learn (I hadn’t been snowboarding since late middle school at the time) I sent Marco up the hill first.

I wanted him to get those big hills and speed out of his system so that when he had to wait patiently for me to get down the hill, well, he’d feel just that… patient. (Haha)

Once he came down that last hill with speed under his feet I grabbed by board, walked to the lift, and up we went. My nerves began to set in as we approached getting off the lift. Crap. Will I fall? Will someone fall on top of me? Will they have to shut down the lift to help me up? Is this going to hurt? 

Every thought of instant failure and embarrassment began to swim through my mind… but alas… I didn’t fall.

Okay, phew. We did it.

Okay, let’s buckle up and get down this mountain. The moment I stood up with both feet bucked in I swear on my life I felt like I’d never stood on a board before. How do I do this?

Part of me wanted to give up right then and there. How is this even fun? This sucks. Why am I signing myself up for this hard/no-fun thing?

Thankfully, I had a calm and patient husband with me who encouraged me to keep going. When I was little, I’d do what they call “the falling leaf.” I was very comfortable with my falling leaf. It’s where you go from side to side down the mountain – like a falling leaf – until you’re at the bottom. You never have to go straight down. Stunning.

I began to do that with Marco there and he basically said “Nope! We’re going to teach you heel-toe.” I freaked a little. No! I can’t do that! I like my falling leaf!

Throughout the day he worked with me, told me it was okay, and challenged me to try new things. He kept telling me to trust my board. Though I sometimes thought how the heck can I trust a thing that is not a person he was totally right. I needed to let go, trust the board, and just learn.

Nothing needed to be perfect, I could stray from my old “safe” ways and learn new things. It was all going to be okay.

By the end of the day I was having a blast. The mountain was empty, it was snowing (lightly) so there was fresh powder on the ground and I was SMILING. Marco was taking videos of me. I’d never had so much fun snowboarding before.

I was using my toes, my heels, flipping around in circles, trusting my board, going straight down the mountain, still falling a few times, but having FUN. I felt so thankful at the end of that day that I’d kept going. That I didn’t let my fear or my old comfort zone hold me back from trying something new.

Now let me just say, it’s been about 4 years since that day and I haven’t been back, so this year is going to be re-working through that fear all over again and it still freaks me out – but I know I can do it. 

How does this relate to a black and white mentality?

A black and white mentality requires basically perfection. Right? No mistakes. It’s either success, or failure. You’re either first or your last. You’re either good or you totally suck. You either win or you lose.

Had I had a black and white mentality that day one of two things would have likely happened: 1) I wouldn’t have ever started because I knew I wasn’t “good” at snowboarding or 2) I would have hurt myself trying to be perfect at something I had not yet learned (Lord, wouldn’t that be a picture).

It would have taken the fun and the opportunity to mess up and learn something new out of that day. I wouldn’t have had the chance to stretch myself and see what I might be capable of. I probably would have quit within the first 20 minutes and I wouldn’t have had that feeling at the end of the day of accomplishment — of good job, you tried, you stuck to it and you learned something new.

This is like life, isn’t it? We can relate this to so many different scenarios… For example, when someone starts coaching with me if they’re struggling with a black and white mentality they may say “I’m afraid I will be the one person this doesn’t work for.”

If they were to believe this thought they would never even start. Do you know how much learning and growth they’d miss out on if they never even started? It’s not really about the end result. It’s about showing up, trying, learning something new. It’s not about a perfect success story. It’s about what YOU need to learn for YOUR story.

It’s about learning to show up and believe in yourself enough to allow yourself to mess up and start over. It’s about learning grace, love, and how to live in imperfection.

How much more would you participate in, in your life, if you were not so focused on the end result? But if instead you aimed to use processes to learn, grow, and to teach yourself something new. 

The middle ground is a lovely place to live. It’s the place of starting, finishing, making mistakes, learning, and continuing to try again anyway. It’s a place of showing up, saying yes to yourself, and having fun.

This is a lot coming from me. I was the girl who loved black and white. Who clung to it. Who, if she was going to do a diet or start something, she was going to get it 100% right. I clung to rules. I wrapped them around my neck. They protected me and made me feel safe.

But they also burdened me, distracted me, and made me grumpy. If I broke one of my rules (food, exercise, school, work, performance) I would be so mad at myself and everyone around me. I’d throw in the towel, deem whatever I was doing as stupid and feel defeated. Fun? Growth? Learning? No, I don’t think so…

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

If you began to recognize that in fact, there is no such thing as failure, but only feedback? How much more would you participate in? What new thing would you try? What would you show up for? How would you show up DIFFERENTLY?

Let me end by saying… I “fail” everyday. I make mistakes, I learn, and I correct course. But along the way, I have grace for myself. I expect mistakes and I forgive myself for them. I do my best, I try to push myself to do new things, and I take the pressure off to preform perfectly… most of the time.

Even in my not being black and white anymore (it’s a value I’ve decided is no longer mine) I can still be black and white. I simply have to recognize it and toss it aside. Anytime I do, I’m happier, more determined, and most importantly am free to move forward.

I hope this post encourages you! Share your thoughts with me in the comments below. Sending you love, grace, and a whole lot of the middle-ground mentality.

Love, Paige
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