I want to read and learn all I can, write thoughtfully and truthfully, live according to reason and ever more mature wisdom, and savor every wonderful little gift of life.
I’ve mentioned this before in passing, but I think it’s worth stating on its own: when it comes to trying to develop new healthy, self-caring habits (or any other positive habits, for that matter), encouraging myself and cheering myself on helps a lot. Simply telling myself “Good job!” after an act of self-care boosts my spirits and helps reinforce a positive, self-aware mindset.
A common example for me occurs when I manage to stop working on a project and take a break because I need to, rather than pushing my body willfully on because I want to finish what I’m doing. If I do manage to stop and take care of my needs, I give myself a big “Great job!”
That mental pat on the back often makes me literally smile and exhale with a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes I laughingly imagine that I’m using “behavioral modification” training on myself, like rewarding a dog with praise and a treat for good behavior. (I’ll even sometimes change the phrase to “Good girl!”) Well, it works, so why not?
On the Flip Side
Conversely, I’m also learning not to beat myself up when I have what I call a self-care failure.* Self-care failures usually occur when I fall from a state of mindfulness, self-control, and wise management of my time and energy to state of just letting myself be battered about by the whims of the moment, which, given my driven nature, often means that I end up totally exhausting myself doing some task that is really not that important in the long run. I’ve always tended to come out of these failures feeling so guilty and angry with myself (because of another aspect of my nature–to be excessively self-critical and prone to strong feelings of shame), but this has been even more of an issue since I’ve been pregnant, since there’s an added layer of guilt about not taking good care of the little ones inside me.
But gradually I’m learning not to wallow in the feelings of shame and failure and instead to simply acknowledge what went wrong, try to learn from it, and move on, keeping a positive mindset of forward progress and self-forgiveness. Some helpful things to tell myself in these times include:
“Making mistakes is just part of being human and alive, which I’m very glad to be!”
and “I’m doing the best I can; it’s not realistic to expect perfection of myself.”
Also, a friend pointed out to me that wallowing in shame is just not helpful: when I make mistakes as a new parent, as I inevitably will, letting myself be overwhelmed by sorrow and guilt will help no one. It will be much better for both my children and myself to treat my mistakes lightly, of course acknowledging and clearly apologizing for them, but then just moving on and trying to do better rather than wallowing in my sense of failure. This is the mindset I would want to model for my children on how to handle their own mistakes as well.
*Having written this out, it occurs to me that it may also help to change my inner language from “self-care failure” to something lighter, such as simply “mistake” or maybe “blip.” Hmm, I’ll have to let that one simmer. (Don’t you love the power of writing to lead one to new insights?!)
Self-parenting and Self-compassion
I think all of this goes back to the concept of self-parenting with an attitude of compassion toward myself, treating myself as a loving parent would treat a child.
I hope you too will encourage yourself about your personal growth efforts today!