Earlier this month I devoted an entire week to being especially kind to myself. I have to say it's one of the hardest things I've ever done. It sounds like it would be easy to practice kindness toward yourself, but what I realized is that we spend most of our time being unkind to ourselves.
For me it looked like this:
"I want to relax. I shouldn't relax I have stuff to do! I should relax because it's what my body needs. But what if I relaxed too much and then I can't sleep later on? I've been taking a lot of breaks lately, maybe I'm just lazy?"
"I want to go shopping at Nordstrom today. You shouldn't go shopping because you have better things to do! I bought myself some nice things. Your time would be better spent working to make money for even more things. I need to go to Nordstrom again tomorrow to pick something up that arrived for me. Shopping again?! It's not right. You work for yourself and you can make your own time. But think of all those other people who are stuck in offices all day, they can't shop whenever they feel like it so who do you think you are?"
"I’m not sure what direction I want to move in. You need to make up your mind right now! You've got a come to a decision. You have to commit and if you don't commit you won't get anything done and this will make you an unreliable person!"
"I need to process some things emotionally. You've had more than enough time processing things emotionally, and where has that gotten you?! You processing things like it's a never-ending cycle of just processing! Why don't you just move on?"
And so on and so on.
This is exactly how my mental process went this week. With me trying to figure out what I wanted and my mind giving me endless direction and criticism. Sometimes at night I would get in bed and start to relax and notice my mind start coming up with stuff for me to focus on and worry about — again not allowing me just to relax.
I started thinking back at how many years I've been doing this to myself. It seems like forever. I know I'm not alone; we all do this to ourselves to some degree. But when I started truly looking at how unkind I was being to myself, I began to feel sympathy for who I've been the last few decades. Then I felt my mind creeping back in and criticizing decisions I've made, grudges I've held, and not processing enough of my pain or emotions. That somehow maybe I would be in a better place had I woken up sooner and done that. That all the things that bother me right now wouldn't exist if I'd only made the right decisions way back when I wouldn't be dealing with this now. That maybe I'm not supposed to be exactly where I'm at.
Do you see how painful it becomes when we let our mind go wild and we don't just accept ourselves? When we don't allow ourselves to have faults and, mistakes and recognize that we hadn't had the growth experience in the past to know what we know now, we begin to fall into this endless cycle of criticism and self-abuse. Then we blame ourselves again because we should've known better.
Yuck it feels terrible! Can you imagine what it feels like in our body, the part of us that isn't thinking but is just feeling and processing emotions. As I write this I get the image of a punching bag being punched continuously 24-hours a day. How long could you stand that?
So it's never a surprise to me that when I am processing something big emotionally, if I let my mind take over my body will give me some kind of signal. I noticed the same thing with my clients and other people in my life. I can't tell you how many people tell me something stressful they are experiencing and then a few minutes later throw in the fact that they're experiencing stomach issues or some kind of other physical pain.
One of my friends recently had a very stressful time at work and the day after the stress at work had reached its peak, she found herself in the emergency room with pain and other unpleasant symptoms. It didn't just pop up right then, it had been building, but the stress of holding down all the emotions brought it to its alert level, in which it can't be ignored anymore.
You don't give yourself a disease like IBS or Crohn's, but the way the you experience life and treat your body determines how and when your body will respond. It's hard to express that because it creates a secondary stress of thinking you're making yourself sick, which is never consciously the case.
Instead of focusing on all the bad things you're doing to yourself, try practicing kindness. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to your thoughts. Be kind to every choice that you make every moment. Because it's only when you allow and support yourself with love that your choices, decisions and patterns will change.
Now I'm off to practice more kindness and get okay with my emotions, whether they be guilt, shame, or happiness. Yep, sometimes we try to sabotage the good ones.
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