I have a new favorite thing.
It’s not a piece of clothing or a new tech toy. It’s food (almond croissants, to be exact) from a bakery here in New York City. I don’t remember exactly when or how I discovered this bakery. However, over the past few months, their treats have become some of my absolute favorite things in the world. They are my go-to for whenever I am stressed. Or upset. Or anxious. Or breathing. I now find myself at this bakery more times a week than I care to admit.
So what does one do when they’ve set out on a journey to get rid of excess, live more consciously, and make mindful decisions, but then come to realize that all of their emotions are tied up in … a pastry?
What is a Crutch?
A crutch is something external (e.g. an object or person) or internal (e.g. denial) that helps you to temporarily cope with the happenings of everyday life. You rely on them to make you feel better when you’re down and fill you up where you feel empty. Food can be a crutch, as it in my case. Other common examples are makeup or other cosmetic enhancements, romantic partners, alcohol, and religion. The use of a crutch can be triggered by anything that makes us feel discomfort, like an illness, a breakup, or even a stressful job. While they may feel like the perfect band-aid in the moment, crutches that are used again and again, for extended periods of time, end up doing more harm than good.
If you aspire to a minimalist way of life, having crutches are intrinsically anti-minimalist. Crutches force you to add to your life, instead of subtracting from it. Also, for those of us who are on a mindfulness journey, crutches prevent us from making decisions that are conscious and thoughtful. Instead, these things become a permanent part of who we are and how we show up in the world. No matter what we do, they’re with us everywhere we go.
If you’re not entirely sure what your crutches are, stop and ask yourself these questions:
- What or who do I turn to when I want to feel valued, happy, or comfortable?
- How do I feel when that thing or person is not around?
- Do I attribute my positive feelings to times when I have certain things? Do I attribute my negative feelings to the absence of those same things?
Resolving a Crutch
The next step after identifying crutches is to get rid of them. In doing so, you learn how to deal with life’s ups and downs without the false sense of security that a crutch provides.
Here’s where you can start:
- Remember the minimalist principles. Prioritize only that which adds true value to your life, and nothing more. Spend your time and efforts nurturing yourself and the relationships that you hold dear, not on acquiring or accumulating external possessions.
- Be present in the moment. We all have the right to feel every feeling. The hard part, though, is understanding that we don’t need to do anything with these feelings, except let them come and go (which they always do). It is during the time before they go that we tend to turn to our crutches to mask the discomfort, instead of being present in the moment and allowing ourselves to feel without judgment.
- Change the way that you react to a “bad” feeling. If you do choose to react to a feeling, change that reaction from externally-focused to one that focuses internally. This can be anything from journal writing to meditation to exercise.
I’d love to hear how you handle crutches? Share in the comments.