Got Perfect Pairings?

katie puslifer coaching

When I talk to my clients about perfect pairings, we usually aren’t talking about what their local wine shop owner suggests to serve with that new grilled fish dish that she’s cooking on Saturday night.

And we are not talking about what heels to pair with her cute new dress, either

Nope, we are talking about a whole other kind of perfect pairing.

We are talking about the unusual combination of two things – that have absolutely nothing in common, but go together perfectly!

When I first start working with my clients, they aren’t even aware that they create perfect pairings in their life. They don’t even know what they are and they can’t see them right away.

But working together for awhile, they get really good at noticing what is going on. They start to pay attention to what they do and what they feel. It’s completely fascinating to them. It’s like the lights come on in their life. Their awareness is ignited and suddenly, they see perfect pairings that they had never noticed before.

Here are five stories about five women and their perfect pairings…

She is following her instincts and pairing back her weekend yoga workshop offerings, so she can create more time to be with her family. She is worried about how this business decision will affect her students. She is worried that they will be mad at her. She really wants to make this change in her schedule and she is totally afraid to do it. She doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. She is filled with doubt as she creates her new fall on-line calendar and then publishes it. She goes to the freezer for ice cream to make her feel better. It’s interesting to point out that she doesn’t even like ice cream, but it makes her feel better. Perfect Pairing = Self-Doubt + Ice Cream

She gets the kids off to school after packing backpacks, lunches, reviewing the day’s schedule and preparing breakfast. She looks around the kitchen and sees the messes that need to be cleaned up. There are exploding laundry baskets in every bedroom. The pile of bills and papers on the dining room table is so high, it’s blocking her view out the front window. She is exhausted. There is clutter everywhere. She loves being a mom and has such a challenging time staying on top of all of all the household stuff. And she feels so guilty that she can’t figure this out. So, she heads back upstairs and climbs under the covers, right after setting the alarm for 2:30pm. She wants to wake up before the kids get home from school and more rest will definitely make her feel better. Perfect Pairing = Guilt + Napping

This woman is writing a project proposal to a non-profit that she hopes will hire her. With every words she types, she is filling up with discomfort as she writes about her qualifications and experience. She starts to think that she is a fraud and that they will see right through her and never hire her. She keeps getting up from her desk and going to kitchen for a small spoonful of cookie dough. When it is all said and done, she has made 10 trips to the kitchen while writing the proposal and it takes all morning. Despite the fact that she is currently on a 3 week cleanse, she eats the cookie dough anyway. It doesn’t really taste that good, but make her feel better. Perfect Pairing = Fear + Cookie Dough

She is moving to a new town and is facing 17 years worth of stuff in her house. Every item is screaming for her attention. And she sees 1000 decisions ahead of her, just to decide what to pack and what to purge. She looks around her house and feels completely overwhelmed and knows she should just get to work, but she can’t quite motivate. She is beginning to regret her decision to move and starts to question everything. Then, she curls up on the couch and watches two movies and eats a cheese plate. It’s 10 in the morning and it does make her feel better. Perfect Pairing = Overwhelm + Cheese plate with Bridget Jones double feature

This woman is gives and gives all day long. She takes care of other people for a living and for fun. She expends a lot of energy for those she loves. Sometimes in the evening, when she is making dinner, she can feel invisible and unappreciated in her house. It feels like everybody needs something and doesn’t seem to notice that she could use some help. It doesn’t help that she’s not great at asking for help and in fact, it makes her really uncomfortable. So, she does all the work of preparing and cleaning up from dinner herself, while her resentment towards her family builds beneath the surface. She opens a bottle of wine almost every night while she cooks. The wine always makes her feel better. Perfect Pairing = Unappreciated + Cabernet Sauvignon

These pairings all have 3 things in common.

Each begins with experiencing of an uncomfortable emotion first. Followed by doing something, eating something, drinking something to soothe that discomfort and to feel better. And finally, after that momentary soothing subsides, here comes another uncomfortable emotion, like regret, guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

Here’s how it works….

You feel something unpleasant or uncomfortable. And you want seek relief from that discomfort with something that feels better. So, you give what you want in that moment, there is relief. YES! The discomfort dissolves.

And then the discomfort is replaced with another negative emotion and you return to the familiar lecture that you have given yourself a million times and it goes something like this…

Why did you eat that? You know better. 

Why did you do that? You wasted hours that you don’t have.

Why did you drink that? You overslept this morning, again.

What’s wrong with you? You know better. Seriously, why did you do that?

Here’s why…

We don’t like to be uncomfortable or to experience negative emotions.

We like to feel good, as much as we possibly can. In fact, we want and almost expect to be happy all the time. We get so many messages in the world about trying to be positive, optimistic and grateful. It creates this unrealistic expectation for sustained and continuous happiness (at all costs) and we start to believe that something is wrong with us, if we can’t achieve it.

As the perfect pairing stories suggest, we seek comfort and happiness when things get hard and find ourselves eating things we don’t want or avoiding things we need to do. We seek pleasure or escape as a way to avoid the pain of discomfort.

And most of the time, we are only mildly aware of what is happening. We talk ourselves into the fact that we are just giving ourselves a little treat or a small reward – for the hard work, the big decision, the struggle or the effort.

We tell ourselves that we deserve it. And say anything to justify it. It’s just a little self-care. No biggie!

It’s just one little bowl, one glass, one hour…

And if it is just that…every once in a while…it would be no big deal.

But, most of the time it is more than one. It’s a few.

And it happens whenever there is a feeling that is uncomfortable or unpleasant.

It becomes a habit. Coping. Soothing. Dealing. Managing. Escaping.

It’s a little pick-me-up or a treat disguised as self-care coming to our rescue, when things get tough.

And yet, that seemingly innocent treat has a negative consequence attached to it if it goes unchanged – gaining extra weight, breaking a commitment, not showing up, missing a deadline, feeling hungover.

Which brings more negative emotions…more guilt, more shame, more discomfort and disappointment. It’s basically choosing to sabotage ourselves with these results, instead of just being uncomfortable.

Here’s what you can learn to do about this.

Look at the whole sequence of events. Slow down and turn the lights on. Notice what is happening. See how the perfect pairing is formed. They go through every step.

Feel the un-appreciation. Notice the desire for Cabernet to soothe the discomfort. Feel the relief that Cabernet brings. Followed by regret and disappointment, when you remember that you want to stop drinking on weeknights. Notice how you keep hitting the snooze button the next morning. See how hard it is to wake up. Feel the sluggishness and fogginess. Feel the new wave of regret and disappointment.

Ask yourself if it’s worth it? Is this perfect pairing working for you? Do you like the end result?

If not, decide to make a new one. Begin with the un-appreciation again and try a new way to pair it.

Breathing. Music. Asking for help. New thoughts. Decide to feel appreciated. Seltzer water in a wine glass. Just be with the uncomfortable emotion until it goes away.

Do this until you find the pairing that is perfect for you. Find one that allows you to not sabotage your way through discomfort. And that has no negative consequences. One that feels better in a lasting way, not a fleeting and temporary way.

Interested in exploring and overcoming a Perfect Pairing in your life?

Download the Perfect Pairing cheat sheet here. This free worksheet will help uncover what you are doing and how you can make some positive changes going forward.

Free Download

Think you might have a perfect pairing problem?

This free (and highly actionable) worksheet will help you discover how your perfect pairing is impacting your life and exactly how to create a positive pairing going forward.

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