How to Not Be So Hard on Yourself
I'M BACK! After a long hiatus of summer festivities, birthday celebrations, website platform changes, and content strategies (read: not producing anything), I'm finally back at it! And it feels good, like a cold shower after a really humid day (read: EVERY DAY THIS WEEK IN NEW YORK HOLY HELL).
I'm starting my resurgence with a doozy. This topic is rather difficult to unpack, mostly because it is so personal. I know I've been hearing the deeply rooted, nagging voice the past couple weeks saying, "you're not producing anything. You haven't blogged in weeks. You're losing your grip on this project, and there's no way to pick it up again. Maybe you should just quit now." I'm sure you know this voice well. And in trying to reason with this little annoying being in my head, I've asked myself, "why am I so hard on myself?" You've probably asked this question many times before as well, which ironically, inherently, makes you feel bad that you ARE in fact hard on yourself, so you're hard on yourself for being so hard on yourself, and the vicious cycle continues. We're all in the same boat. In our passive way of dealing with the troubling self-deprecating talks, we're not doing anything except bringing it to our attention, really. So instead of asking "why", maybe we can ask "how". How can we not be so hard on ourselves?
Oh boy this this tip isn't fully loaded. I've heard "be thankful" so many times in my life that it has, unfortunately, lost a bit of meaning. How do you "be thankful" anyway? Do you sit in your room and say to yourself, "I'm thankful. I'm thankful. I'm thankful?" Sure, if that works for you! But I've found that being specific in your thankfulness can help in really connecting with the meaning behind it.
I've also applied this strategy of thankfulness at points in my life when I absolutely did not want to be thankful for anything. My good friend and fellow Crossfit junkie, Thomas, and I were in the middle of doing a morning workout that involved heavy barbell cleans. This movement is definitely not my favorite, and this particular day at the gym really highlighted my dislike for the lift. My positioning was off, I couldn't get the technique down, and my body was exhausted. After the complexes, as we were putting our barbells away, Thomas bent down next to his bar and said to it, "thank you for pushing me today." And in that moment, this idea of "being thankful" fully clicked. I was thankful for the little bit of strength I gained from moving that barbell. I was thankful for the ability to do the lift at all. I was thankful for Thomas being there to teach me to be thankful. In that moment of complete frustration, I found thankfulness. It allowed me to step out of the misery for a moment. Try practicing thankfulness in your lowest points.
I have become seriously addicted to podcasts lately. One podcast in particular, Harder to Kill, hosted by fellow Paleo and Crossfit gal Steph Gaudreau, features a myriad of really interesting and amazing guests who are into fitness, nutrition, and wellness. One guest in particular, Shane Farmer, the founder of Dark Horse Rowing, puts this concept of patience simply. "If you want to write a book, you can write a paragraph for the next ten years and you'll end up with a book!" His point, to a large degree, is to have the courage to start something new, or to take one step at a time to make something happen. But there is another piece of advice to glean from this, and that is to be patient with yourself. Trust that you are not meant to be a finished product, you are not meant to be perfect in all that you do. Have enough patience with yourself to see your life as a work in progress, a constant stream of opportunities to try and fail and move. Be patient in your process.
Often times, when we're feeling the most hard on ourselves, we are misplacing our frustration. We spiral into negative self talk because we have no where else to place the emotion. And when we're so stuck that we can't see past the spiral, it's time to start asking questions. Specific questions. The general question, "why am I so hard on myself?" can become, "why am I so angry that I haven't been writing?" "Why haven't I been writing?" "Why were my lifts not the best they could be today?" "Why do I feel so guilty after eating that cupcake?" Asking specific questions can really unpack a lot of the general frustrations and anxiety. Asking questions actively puts the negative self talk into action. Try taking action by asking questions.
Of course this list isn't extensive, and it takes practice to not be so hard on yourself. But perhaps these steps will help you get there. Remember, we're all a work in progress. Be more gentle with yourself.