“I am so stupid…I can’t believe I….”
“I am so lazy – I should have….”
“If only I was smarter I could have finished….”
Is this something that you hear in your head daily? Do you list all the things you should have done or should be better at doing? Maybe your spouse, sibling or friends tell you that “you are too hard on yourself” and “you need to lower your expectations for yourself?” If so, you might be in need of a tune up around self love.
I have worked with many women who wonder what “self love” really is and what “lowering expectations” really means. How do we lower our expectations of ourselves when we are the ones making the machine that is our family run. Do we not feed the kids? Do we not make sure everyone has a mittens, underwear and socks? It can feel like we are barely getting by so what do we stop doing in order to lower our expectations? If we can’t figure this out it can feel like one more thing we are bad at – we are bad at self love.
Many of the women that I see who are extremely hard on themselves are also bad at taking complements, a thank you’s or allowing someone to help them. If someone praises their shirt they might say “thing old thing – it’s not really nice.” If they are offered help their automatic response is “no,” even if they really need some help. Or they might deflect any gratitude or thank-you’s by thanking and praising the other person. These women end up feeling depleted as they care for everyone around them.
The impulse it to go straight toward the “why” of this situation. Why don’t you let others help you? Why can’t you let someone give to you? And while these are valid questions they don’t show us how to change our behavior and begin to feel good about ourselves. I propose that rather than trying to understand they whys we go straight to allowing praise, gratitude and help into your life. I think of this as a back-door, fast-pass to self love.
This exercise begins with awareness. You are simply going to notice all of the times that you are rejecting the praise, gratitude and help offered to you daily. There is tremendous power in observation and attention; change begins to happen as soon as we take ourselves out of the role of actor and begin to observer what is happening in our lives.
Your assignment is, for one day, to take a post-it note and a pen and mark down how many times someone says thank-you to you, offers you help you or praises something about you, your work or your life. You might be shocked by how often this happens.
If you are feeling like a challenge, then your next job will be to say yes or thank you to everything offered. You are allowed to ONLY say yes or thank you – you cannot explain why the praise is not earned or how you usually do everything for yourself but are only accepting help because you have to. Nope – you say thank you and then shut up. You might find that you become curious about how so much love could go unnoticed in your day.
The hard work with this exercise is to allow the love that surrounds us into our body or our soul. You want to visualize swallowing it into your gut where it might nurture your instead of having it slide right off unseen. Again, first step is to notice it and the second step is to allow it.
I realize that this sounds very easy but for those of us who are bad a self love this is actually quite challenging. Please don’t hesitate to find help if you are struggling with allowing the flow love, praise and gratitude that surrounds you. Working with a therapist, coach or counselor is a wonderful place to begin this journey.
Please contact me if you would like to schedule a free consultation to talk about this exercise or if you need other simple exercises to begin to allow more self love, joy and ease into your life.
Ashley Seeger, LCSW is an experienced psychotherapist practicing out of her sunny office in South Boulder, CO. Learn more about individual counseling with Ashley.