Many of us get excited about making changes in our lives. We work to rid ourselves of old, bad habits, as we strive for new and improved relationships, more lucrative careers, and better bodies. Yet very often, we find ourselves re-living the same situations over and over again, engaging in similar patterns, ending up right where we started, thinking, how do I always end up in the same place?
Real change is never easy. In fact, I know a number of people who do not believe it is possible – that you are who you are, and you cannot alter your essential character.
While I do believe that we each carry certain inherent qualities that define our personality and in some cases our capabilities, I also know that many things are possible if we give ourselves permission. Again – not always an easy task.
Speaking as one who has engaged in my share of therapy, I understand how difficult it can be to confront the most despised and shameful parts of ourselves. Regardless of whether or not these aspects of self were the result of abuse or other circumstances beyond our control, they are now a part of us, a part of our character, and we are responsible for their ongoing expression.
For me, the most painful, yet ultimately liberating part of change is being honest with myself and admitting where I have acted in a less than stellar fashion – the first step in forgiving myself for not being perfect. This does not mean taking on the opinions of others, nor absorbing their long held grudges as my own reality. What I’m talking about is a far more subtle, internal process, driven not from a need to please others, but from a desire for inner tranquility and acceptance of self.
Here are some things I try to remember along the way:
1). Making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person. Thinking back on times I have acted poorly, I am tempted to beat myself up. But continually punishing myself for past mistakes virtually guarantees that I will repeat these errors and punish others just as harshly for acting in a similar fashion. Shame and demoralization are not good motivators! In fact, they are fairly certain to make us feel powerless and unable to act constructively on our own behalf.
2). I can often be my own worst enemy. Have you ever noticed how certain people can walk into a situation filled with self-consciousness about a flaw they perceive about themselves, and actually call more attention to it by their words or actions? Have you ever been that person who says things like, Oh, my hair is such a mess… I look so fat today… I’m such an idiot…? There are certainly some very cruel people out there in the world, but often we are cruelest to ourselves!
3). I ask myself, What have I done that makes me think I am so essentially wrong? Then I really think about it, look at it, sometimes even write about it. I step away from it and come back to it again. Was it really as bad as I think? Can I consider why I may have acted the way I did? If I dig a little deeper, can I get to the root of what drove me to those choices? Do I understand that I did the best I could at that time? That if I had it to do over again, I might make a different choice?
We recreate our sense of the past through our present perceptions. Can I change the way I view myself enough to see my most despised actions with a bit more compassion for my own shortcomings as a human being?
4). Lately I’ve been establishing more of an internal dialogue with myself. It’s not easy. I am a mother, and my son’s needs are ever present. I’m also in a relationship and like to regularly consider my partner’s needs. I work on a number of significant projects and thus am responsible to many different people in a given day. Also, I work in social media, so sometimes it feels like I have thousands of other voices in my head. Not much quiet time for a little one-on-one with myself. But I know I need to make the time.
In order to maintain my sanity, and to regain my balance when the pull of others becomes too great, I have to be able to return to myself, as a source of stability and comfort. Finding uninterrupted time to engage my own thoughts and feelings is necessary to my survival, like drinking water, or getting enough sleep. Also, those self-affirmations and little pep talks we give ourselves really help! It’s nice to look in the mirror and say something kind…
5). Taking a break once in awhile is essential. Relentlessly hammering away at a problem or challenge does not take into account the natural cycle of things. There is an ebb and a flow to every process, and understanding self is no exception. Sometimes it helps to step away from my own intense scrutiny, and just enjoy life.
My suggestions? Take a bike ride, spend time with people you love, hang out with your children, your dog, watch a movie, dance, eat a delicious meal, play some music… remind yourself of the beauty and joy that life has to offer, and how you are a worthy and essential part of that. Show yourself some love!
6). I try to keep it all in perspective. The world is a big and complicated place. I know that my place in it, though significant, is very small compared to everything else! No matter how much pressure I feel to be and do better, the people I want to please are not staying up nights thinking about me. Most of the time, we are all pretty consumed with ourselves.
Try to remember that the next time you are tempted to wear the judgement of others to bed at night. You hold the key to your own ability to change. Your actions will stem from your own belief in yourself. If you really want to make things be different, only you can take the first steps, either towards making the changes by yourself, or towards seeking the help you need in order to make it happen.
Just don’t forget – you are worth it.
Image Credit : MotivatedOnline