Breaking old patterns came up in my last installment, and I have to admit I am probably harder on myself than anyone else when I catch myself repeating behavior that I have committed to changing. That is where I saw the need for Step 3:
Step 3: Be kinder to yourself!
Many of us who care about personal development are our own worse critics because we keep thinking we aren’t making changes fast enough — or learning what we need to learn soon enough! Years ago I had a client in her mid-fifties tell me how angry she was because she “should have been finished working on herself by now….” I calmly explained that working on ourselves is a life-long journey, and it was unrealistic to think at her relatively young age she would be “done” by now.
She didn’t like my response, and didn’t keep coming to see me. Which was okay with me — because I knew even then that it would have been an uphill battle to keep trying to help her when she wasn’t actually open to on-going personal growth.
Not everyone is! As I have gotten older, it has become very clear to me that I resonate with some people, and I don’t with others. And that is fine with me, because then I don’t have to get that scrunchy feeling in my face and that tense feeling in my head and shoulders when I keep trying to communicate with people who are simply not on the same page with me.
It doesn’t mean they are wrong. For them, their lives are working just fine. Or as fine as they want things at that moment.
That is one way I have learned to be kinder to myself. No one can be all things to all people, so trying to help others see or understand how things could be different can actually be a losing battle which just makes us feel, once again, depleted!
When do you know it is time to let go?
That probably varies with different situations, mainly whether it is something you feel that you have given enough effort toward and it just isn’t happening. One thing I am REALLY working on is the notion that if I explain it another way, use different examples, they will “get it” — when that isn’t a truly possible outcome, I just don’t want to face it.
It’s that adage, “if a door doesn’t open, maybe it’s the wrong door” (paraphrased) but you get what I mean.
So I need to be kinder to myself regarding communication with others. Is that it?
Not quite. The other part is how we view ourselves. I realize even more than being hard on myself by making too much effort to help others, I can so easily slip into self-critical mode thinking I “should” be doing more — more writing, more exercising, more cooking, more whatever!
We all have a standard we hold ourselves accountable to. I think my habit is to pretty much do what I want each day, then give myself a hard time because I didn’t meet the much higher standard I imagine I ought to be living up to.
Why? It’s probably a leftover from childhood when I didn’t think I measured up. I wasn’t as smart as my older sister. I wasn’t as cute as my friends. I didn’t get the part I wanted in the school play because someone else was “better” than I was…. I can name so many ways I felt less than as a kid, and the frustration about those experiences seems to have implanted itself into my cellular memory.
I see this pattern slowly unraveling, but it still crops up. So I have to regroup, have a serious talk with myself — or if I’m too far down the rabbit hole of self-flagellation, I call one of my closest friends and get some help.
Does that work?
Actually, it does. At least it helps me get back to center. Most of my friends admit that we are all harder on ourselves than we are on others. My goal is to catch it as soon as possible and reverse the downward spiral. Thank goodness I have friends to help me!!!
Next blog: Step 4!