This Moment Does Not Define You

“Things and conditions can give you pleasure but they cannot give you joy—joy arises from within.” ~Eckhart Tolle

I struggled with anorexia for four years before I went to rehab. Rehab saved my life, and although I am not “completely recovered,” I am in recovery. I am coping. I am living again.

One of the biggest sources of fuel for my eating disorder was my hyper-focus on the physical and transitory aspects of life.

In my mind, I over-emphasized the importance of my body. I put the appearance of my body, and how I felt about my body, above my true, underlying nature.

I would treat fleeting thoughts, feelings, and emotions as crucial, life-and-death matters.

I did not realize or appreciate my crucial and enduring self, which (I now understand) transcends the fleeting states of the corporal realm.

During this time, surface feelings took on a villainous and critical role. I know this sounds melodramatic and unrealistic (because it is), but “feeling bloated” literally felt like the death of me. I could not separate my true self from my passing thoughts and feelings.

A huge part of my recovery and self-discovery has been my ability to separate my identity and the surface mental sewage that blocks my view of reality.

I realized that I am not my body – kind of weird, but cool and life-changing. I am much more than just my physical form.

I'm not saying that I'm really some waif-like spirit, floating on the whimsical current of an indefinable world (that would be cool though).

What I'm saying is that my physical self—my body, my fleeting feelings and thoughts—do not define me.

I am not just me sitting here typing this blog post. I am not me who ate apples with a whole lot of peanut butter for breakfast. I am not me who will take a sip of black iced coffee in about three seconds.

I am a conglomeration, a whole melting pot of things and thoughts and feelings and actions and ideas and emotions. I am now and then and I am more to come.

I am so much more than what you see and how I feel right now.

If you accept and embrace this way of thinking—this “I extend past the fleeting, corporal now“—it makes it so much easier to accept yourself. If you make a mistake, you can just brush it off and move on.

You might have made that mistake, but that mistake does not make you.

I am not dismissing how you feel and what you think in the present moment. Being present and aware of your thoughts and feelings is crucial for happiness, as well.

But your whole world expands when you stop confining yourself to these drifting, passing mental mutterings. They come and go, and they may help to form who you are, but they are not what you are or all that you have to offer. Not in the least.

So the next time you feel like crap—whether you feel bloated or embarrassed or hung over or ashamed—just remember, what you feel right now is not the whole you. What people see right now is not the whole you. This moment will only define and defeat you if you let it.

Photo by Eddi van W

About Lisa Stefany

Lisa Stefany is a proud graduate of Penn State University. She majored in English and minored in finding herself, literally. She makes it a point to vivify her mind daily with wine, yoga, and quantum mechanics. And when those activities aren’t sufficient, splatter paint fills the void.

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  • Em

    This article came at just the right time. Let’s just say that I was about to end a perfectly good day (it’s after midnight at the time I write this) on a bad note. A situation caused a bunch of bad emotions in myself: worry, blame, frustration, anger…..and I added on the worry that I would go to bed feeling stressed! But after reading this article, I realized that I was letting things get to me but that I had complete control over it. And I told myself that the negative feelings would do no good.

    Lisa, I want you to know that your article just saved my day. Thanks. 🙂

    Also, love your blog Lori. I’ve been following it for a little while now, it’s one of my favorite daily reads!

  • Thanks, Em! I really enjoyed this post, too. It’s all too easy to get carried away in the emotions of a moment. It always helps to get some perspective!

  • AWESOME! So good to hear that you didn’t let your passing negative thoughts & emotions get the best of you.

    And just so you know, it wasn’t my article that “saved your day;” it was you. I know that sounds really corny, but it’s true!

    My article just reminded you of what you know deep down.

    Keep remembering 🙂

  • Excellent post Lisa. When seen in hindsight, so many things that we thought were vitally important at the time are seen to be transitory waves passing over a deep ocean.

  • Kim Cochrane

    I’m in midst of deciding whether to separate from my husband and I found your post quite relevant for my situation too. These feelings that I’m having feel overwhelming for me in this moment, but this too shall pass. I need to be aware that we can postpone things, but we can’t postpone the inevitable forever. I am here now, in my feelings in my body, but these feelings will pass and new ones will take their place. Perspective, being present and finding the joy and gratitude in each moment are all so important. Peace to all….

  • Fern


    Thank you so much for this!  I have been ruminating off and on for nearly nine months on a brief relationship that did not work out as I had hoped.  This article helped me move closer to being unstuck.

  • ‘I’m not saying that I’m really some waif-like spirit, floating on the whimsical current of an indefinable world (thatwould be cool though).”

    This made me giggle.  Awesome post and I love the humor you sprinkled in it.  And yes – it would be cool to float whimsically around the world 🙂

  • “She majored in English and minored in finding herself”, Love that!!!

  • I love this way of looking at things! It makes everything feel so much more expansive. Thank you!


  • Anonymous

    I really love this quote: “You might have made that mistake, but that mistake does not make you.”

    Especially in the popular media, people tend to get defined by one moment, or a small series of moments, actions, or words. It’s so easy to pigeonhole people and think we’ve got them figured out when we know only a few things about them. And of course, when we do that to other people, we invariably end up turning around and doing it to ourselves too – or imagining that others are doing it to us, which can end up being the same things, unfortunately.

  • Plumbgray

    Thank you very much! There was a absolute gem in there for me which sparked of a wonderful insight Big thanks again .G

  • Being stuck sucks; believe me, I know. Keep a little list (mental or physical) of things that help you “unstick;” that way, whenever you feel yourself sticking to a bad thought/emotion, you’ll have some tools ready.

    Happy unsticking 🙂

  • I’m flattered that you appreciate my humor! It’s good to keep things light, especially with heavy topics. Life’s too short to be serious all the time!

  • Thank YOU! 🙂

  • That’s an awesome way of putting it — expansive. Love it.

    When I was really struggling mentally & emotionally, I always felt so confined and trapped. My negative thoughts still sometimes shrink & distort my perception of reality, but only temporarily.  It’s always refreshing to get that expansive perspective back.

     I’m glad my article gave you some expansion 🙂

  • Preach, sister. You’ve got some serious writing skills going on there.

  • Haha, thank you. Unfortunately, neither lead to much financial stability. Oh well, I’ll take emotional stability over financial anyday 😉

  • Thank you! Awesome metaphor, by the way.

    Little thoughts; big ocean.

    Even BIGGER zen 😉

  • I read this post a few hours back and it came to me at just the right time. When something comes out of your personal experience, when it comes directly from the heart, it has certain power. Excellent article. Cheers.

  • Tiffany Cunningham

    When you do have negative thoughts, what do you do about them in the moment? Do you just ignore them, do you acknowledge them and ten dismiss them, or something else? I find they can come in quite loud for me and can drown out everything else. Did you ever go through that and how did you work to overcome it?

    Thank you so much for being so open about a struggle that people often stay quiet about. Your article was uplifting.

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  • Cara

    Love this! As mentioned by another reader, this article came at the right time. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote about in fact associating with my physical form is something that comes and goes, and I find the more overwhelmed and stressed I am the more I tend to do so. Yoga is probably the one thing that has helped me the most with this. Thank you! 

  • i’ve just discovered your blog and it helped change my perspective on a lot of things.sometimes situations are brought upon you,and you ask the question why is this happening to me.i have made mistakes and i made it to rule my life, but thanks to you’re blog it helped me look at things differently.

  • Whether good or bad, this moment does not define me.
    Love this way of thinking.Thank you 🙂

  • Karina

    Thank you for this…I have been struggling with letting go a relationship that did not work out about 4 years ago and now he’s dating an old ex friend of mine. I feel angry, hurt, betrayed and most of all scared to move on. But I know one day at a time and that I am better than this.

    And of course…Go Penn State! (Class of 2002 alum!!!)

  • ugh, i know exactly what you mean. i haven’t experienced this type of relationship problem, but “the fear of moving on” is a big thing for me. sometimes, holding onto things, even when they hurt us more than help us, is easier than letting go.

    but i promise you that when you’re finally ready to let go, you’ll feel so much lighter & more free. don’t push yourself; it’ll come. but try to do something every day, even if it’s really small & seemingly insignificant, to move toward moving on.

    good luck 🙂 keep me updated!

    and, yes of course, WE ARE (penn state) 😉

  • Thanks, Srini. That means a lot. 🙂

  • PREACH, sister.

    yoga has, hands down, been my miracle – mentally, physically, and emotionally. it’s done more for me than any amount of therapy and/or drugs (not discounting those, though). i could go on (believe me, i could go onnnn and on) about the awesomeness of yoga…but it seems that it would be redundant and unnecessary since you are already aware.

    always good to hear from a fellow yoga lover.

    make it a namaste day, every day 🙂

  • I am by no means an expert at “dismissing & overpowering negative thoughts.” But I’m an expert at being bombarded by them. And I’m an expert at LEARNING how to cope with them.

    I cope with them by writing them down. By assessing them in different settings — amongst people, by myself, under a tree. I look at them and detach them from myself, think of them as thoughts coming from someone else. I look at them upside-down (turning the page around or literally while in a headstand). I say them outloud. I sing them. I say them in a really annoying, whiny voice. I tell them to my best friend. I pretend they’re another person, and then I have a conversation with him/her.

    I’m not in the state (yet) where I can just dismiss my negative thoughts, even though I’m aware of their distortion of reality. So I play with them.

    And eventually, that DUH moment comes and my mind finally realizes how dumb the thoughts are. Only then can I move on without the echo of the thoughts distracting me from living my day.

    I gotta stress how helpful it is to say your negative thoughts out loud in the dumbest voice you can muster — whether its a hick twang (no offense to the southerners out there) or a whimpering, baby voice or a stupid valley girl whine. It’s the best when you make yourself laugh and your thoughts are reduced to the credibility of a slug.

    Good luck; keep me updated! 🙂

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  • Jacqueline Mullen

    Thank you for this.