Two steps forward, one step back
So you took ten steps forward in that area where you so want to change, but then you took three steps back, and you are being crazy hard on yourself. Sounds familiar?
And you and I both intellectually understand that less harshness and more compassion would go a long way towards positive change, but our brains actually believe that being kinder on ourselves will make us get worse and not better–like we are giving ourselves permission to “be bad.”
As though if we stop cracking the whip, we will go back to being irresponsible, or over-eaters, or undisciplined, or whatever the issue is we are trying to improve about ourselves.
The Think/Feel/Act Loop
Do you remember the Think/Feel/Act loop? It explains the reason we do what we do in life: our thoughts create our feelings and drive our actions.
This works from what we will do when we have a flat tire to why we leave our marriage or not. It always goes back to the thoughts we choose to create and entertain.
So let’s look at how the Think/Feel/Act loop works when we are hard on ourselves for not improving fast enough:
The thought is “I have to be hard on myself, because if I am not, I will never get it done, because I always… I never…, I keep on…”
You and I can both see that going down that road is not conducive to moving forward. Those thoughts that we ruminate bring about the feelings of guilt and hopelessness–“I always have to crack the whip or I’ll mess up.”
And how do we generally act when we feel these kinds of negative emotions? For most of us, we start to focus on everything that isn’t working, we compare ourselves to others, we get even more discouraged and we wind up discouraged and give up, or do something stupid to relieve the pressure, or take massive unreasonable actions that are not sustainable–“I’ll fast for the next week since I overate yesterday.”
Being mean to ourselves backfires one hundred percent of the time
The ability to feel guilt is a good thing–we certainly don’t want to be immune to Godly conviction!
However, there is a huge difference between Godly conviction and guilt about all the little things you did not do perfectly today.
If we are hard on ourselves because deep down we believe that this is how we can create change, it will backfire every single time.
All we have to do is understand how our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings drive our actions, and we will all be able to see that beating ourselves up doesn’t work. All it does is create more negative emotion.
Our thoughts always play out in our lives.
So, what’s the solution?
A small shift in thought about change.
What if we shifted from having to fix ourselves to growth?
Growth is not about fixing. It is about evolving. It’s about stepping into the next level of us.
The parable of the Tree
Trees go from seed, to sprout, to seedling, to a sapling, and finally to a mature tree.
Trees are not improving, becoming better, fixing their flaws. They are simply growing, developing, increasing, expanding, and evolving.
We don’t look at saplings and think, “this is a really messed up tree.” We don’t berate it for not being far along enough in the process. We simply accept that it’s not where it’s going to end up yet.
Mindset about ourselves
Let’s be as kind to ourselves as we are to trees, shall we? Let’s not say, “Look at all these things I’m doing wrong. Look at all these places where I’m broken. Look at all these areas where I need to
be fixed,” instead of seeing it as a process of growth and evolution.
This is such a small shift of perspective, but it can change everything in your life.
What if growth doesn’t stop when you reach your adult height or you pass through puberty? What if growth is all about how you keep developing, and expanding, and growing as a person?
When we begin to see ourselves as growing rather than fixing ourselves, we will begin to talk differently to and about ourselves.
It feels so much better. And brings about much better results.
If you have any questions or input about this blog post, please start a conversation in the comments! And if you found this post useful, and I really hope you did, don’t be selfish–please share it with your friends!