I Should Stop Shoulding Myself

I’ve been reading a book about self-compassion. It talks about the fact that most of us don’t extend the same amount of compassion and kindness to ourselves that we do to others. The reasons for this are many – the way we were spoken to when we were growing up, life experiences that caused us to feel shame, feelings of inadequacy or unworthiness…the list goes on. Whatever the reason we are hard on ourselves, it’s something that breaks us down and deprives us of joy. I know this to be true for me.

The good news is, this brokenness that we inflict upon ourselves can be mended, and learning to have self-compassion can help.

I’m only half-way through the book, but one thing that has already had a profound effect on me is the idea that part of being compassionate toward myself means I have to change the way I talk to myself. Not the silly way I talk to myself out loud when no one is around (that is endlessly entertaining!), but the way that my internal self-talk admonishes and berates me when I don’t live up to the standards I set for myself. If you struggle with being kind to yourself, you know what I mean. Maybe your inner voice calls you names, or insults you. Maybe it belittles or makes fun of you. My inner voice doesn’t call me names or make fun of me; it shoulds me. A lot. And what it says always has an unspoken implication.

“You should have written that post three days ago.” (This tells me I’m unproductive)

“You shouldn’t eat so much.” (This tells me I’m fat)

“You should get off of your butt and do something!” (This tells me I’m lazy)

My inner voice is constantly aware of my faults and failures, and it lets me know by telling me what I should do, or what I should’ve done. It seems that my inner voice is far wiser than I am.

What I have to remember is that my inner voice isn’t an entity of its own. It’s me. It’s me being more critical and disapproving with myself than I ever would be with someone else. Ugh. Why do I do that? I shouldn’t do….

OOPS! See how easy it is for me to should myself?!

I’m working on it though. I am trying to be mindful when I start shoulding myself. I’ve been amazed at just how often that word runs through my mind! When it does, I stop what I’m doing, make note of what I’m down Honey
on myself about, and I think of a more positive way to deal with it. And you know what? It’s starting to work. When I bully myself about something with shoulds and shouldn’ts, it rarely causes me to change my behavior to what it should be. However, when I meet my shortcomings with self-compassion, I’ve found that I am more likely to feel motivated to change it, or fix it, or get it done.

Amazing how that works, isn’t it?!

I knew that to be true when dealing with others. You know, it’s the whole catching flies with honey thing. But it turns out that it works when dealing with myself too! When I treat myself with compassion, I feel better, I get more done, I have more joy, I am happier.

I should’ve known that, shouldn’t I?

Ugh.

Still working on it…

 

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Don’t Stuff the Birthday Blues

Yesterday my husband and I had a discussion about stuffing emotions, and whether or not there is a difference between stuffing and just telling ourselves that those thoughts and feelings may be real, but it isn’t doing any good to wallow in them. It’s a fine line, I think, and when I am struggling with an uncomfortable emotion, I’m often not sure which one I’m doing. My husband’s thought about it that is that it depends on what your self-talk is saying about it. Are you telling yourself to suck it up, that you can’t think about that? Or are you telling yourself that these feelings are there, but there isn’t anything you can change about it?

The conversation that started this was about the fact that it’s my daughter’s birthday today and I’m sad. If you’re a reader of my blog, you may remember that my daughter and I are estranged; we have been for nearly five years. Holidays and her birthday are hard (I suspect they always will be) because I always wish that we were together. It’s not that I don’t miss her everyday, I do, but special days amplify my longing.

So, yesterday I wasn’t sure if I was stuffing my emotions or not. I told my husband I was feeling sad, but when he pressed for more, I didn’t have anything else to add. It was the same as always — little snippets of happy times that I had with my daughter flashing through my mind, willy nilly. That’s all. And that’s what it always is, so why talk about it? I think there’s a saying about a dead horse that applies here. At least that’s how I usually feel about the situation. Is that stuffing?

Actually, thinking about it today, I think it was. The reason I say that is because later in the evening last night, I gave in to the emotion. I let myself cry, and I said out loud, “I miss her so much.” My husband hugged me and held me for a while. I didn’t have to say anything else, I didn’t have to discuss every memory that was in my head, I just had to actually feel the feeling…let it take hold for a minute. I didn’t have to wallow, but I did have to acknowledge what I was feeling, whether I liked it or not. But then, after I took some ibuprofen and a hot bath, I felt some relief.

Some.

I woke up this morning and the sadness was still there. I haven’t cried today, but I’m not stuffing it…I’m writing this post.

Happy Birthday, Kari. I love you.

19th birthday