Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Be Gentle to Myself

As long as I can remember, I have been very hard on myself.  In the past I expected myself to be perfect, to have a perfect life and to do everything perfect. I would be so upset with the littlest mistake.  I remember one day how hard I was on myself when I got home from the store and realized I had bought the wrong mascara. I was so upset, how could I have done something so stupid.  I continued to cry and berate myself, just as an abusive adult would yell at a child for something minor.  I didn't realize until now how abusive I have been to myself, not just in this situation, but in so many more through my life.

I think by following last week's strategy of getting out of my head (see blog entry "Breathe Strategy - Getting out of my Head), it made a big difference in how I treated myself and how I feel.  I'm definitely more relaxed.  I even feel like I am getting more done, but not feeling like I'm "doing" all day.  One thing that has been helpful this past week, is that I started using a planner again.  I love planners, but quit for some reason (probably because my expectations were too high).  Anyway, using a planner helps get everything out of my head and visually see things that need to be done.  I used to try to get everything done, and I mean everything, on my list for the day.  But this past week, I've been more realistic, I review what is on my list several times a day, pick what I feel like doing, move things to different days, and add and delete things as I feel necessary.  I'm being more gentle with myself and my expectations.

In was about a year and a half ago that I was in a group therapy session where one of the other ladies mentioned that one of her best techniques to improving her life was to "be kind to herself."  I don't think I had even thought about how I treat myself, I knew I had been ignoring my needs because of the co-dependency, but I hadn't thought about actually being kind to myself.  I have since read about talking kindly to yourself in the mirror (which was really hard for me to do at first) and other ideas for being gentle with yourself.  This quote is one that I really like from Beyond Co-Dependency by Melodie Beattie:

In the morning and through out our day, we lovingly and gently ask ourselves what we can do to take care of ourselves that would feel good.  We ask ourselves what we need to do to take of ourselves.  When we hurt, we ask what would help us feel better.  We give ourselves encouragement and support.  We tell ourselves we can do it good enough, and things will work out.  When we make a mistake, we tell ourselves that's ok.  We wait a moment, until we get our balance back, and then we ask ourselves if there's something we can learn from our mistake, or if there's some way we can improve our conduct in the future, or if there's an amend we need to make.  We tell ourselves we're great and we're special.  We tell ourselves we'll always be there for us.  We make ourselves do what we wish someone else would have done for us.

I love the "we lovingly and gently ask ourselves" part of this quote.  It doesn't say "we yell at ourself," "we berate ourself" or any other mean thing.  I look back now and think about how silly I was for being so hard on myself for getting the wrong mascara.  It wasn't a big deal, but my expectations were.  Being gentle to myself means giving myself a break when I make a mistake, speaking kind words to myself, listening to myself, doing for myself what I hope someone will do for me and so much more.  It is time to trade in my expectations of perfection for expectations of kindness, gentleness and love for myself.

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