1. Can you practice feeling it more? Some things hurt – a lot. This is the most human thing. We never, ever want to, but the best thing for us is to feel through it – caveat, you can’t feel all the things ALL THE TIME. This can be done in teeny tiny morsels with a bunch of Netflix and distraction in-between and that’s ok. Just also make the space to feel. Talk it out. Cry it out. Write it out. Sweat it out. It’s not admirable or heroic to keep it all in – it’s brave to open your heart and let trusted people really, really, really in. Release it by feeling through it.
2. Can you make space to really play? What did you do for fun when you were a kid? Can you take a class or learn something you’ve always been curious about? Can you put yourself out there a bit more? Can you do it without needing to make it an achievement, or even without making it public? Can you just do it for yourself, for its own sake? If you are curious about taking an improv class but don’t sign up out of potential embarrassment, judgement towards yourself (and as a result, also towards others, “Oh my gosh I’m so embarrassed for her” or “Who does she think she is?”) is living inside you like a poisonous cage. The key to releasing yourself is to DO the things you think are embarrassing – once you do, you release yourself, and the judgement you have towards others will evaporate at the same time. No one who is actually doing stuff feels the need to judge others who are trying to do stuff – they will cheer for you instead.
3. Can you be more courageous with apologies? Apologizing is hard when we have fragile self-worth. You can make a mistake, and still have a beautiful, loving heart – it just means you are a human who has likely been through a lot. It can be difficult to let ourselves look at how we have caused pain to someone else because it is too threatening to our identity (“I’m a good person! How dare they!”) so instead we make them wrong – “She is too sensitive, she caused me to react like that, she is being dramatic.” If we can build the courage and strength to truly own the part we played and say, “I am so sorry I hurt you, I messed up when I did x, and I am going to really work on that moving forwards” not only does it help rebuild trust, but it also strengthens our sense of self-worth. The more we can see ourselves as flawed humans who sometimes screw up, the more we can love ourselves and the deeper, healthier, and more meaningful our relationships can become.
4. Where can you soften and release the grip? Sometimes the best thing we can do is nothing at all. If you are a chronic “fixer” or experience a lot of anxiety, our tolerance for the discomfort of ‘just leaving it’ is next to nothing. We often feed our anxiety by doing more and inserting ourselves to solve a problem instead of creating space for others to share the work too. We can practice stretching our tolerance for this like an elastic band. If your fear is, “If I don’t do it, it will never be done” or “It won’t be done right” – all the more important to give it space and practice softening to allow others’ support in. It will be terrifying at first (and truthfully, it might take longer for things to happen than you are comfortable with) but it can heal the anxiety on a deeper level which is often, “Who would still be there if I did less?” and “What is my value if I don’t do it all?”
5. Can you be more patient with yourself? It’s so much easier for us to tolerate the slow and steady progress of others, but not of ourselves. We know intellectually that the tortoise defeats the hare, but when it comes to ourselves, we create plans based on our ‘ideal selves’ as opposed to who we truly are. What if we allowed ourselves to patiently delight in our own incremental progress and trust that our real, honest starting point is absolutely beautiful? What if we allowed ourselves to slow down, speak gently to our hearts, and take more rest along the journey? When we do it this way, anything is possible, but we lose sight of this because it can feel humiliating to move slower than we think we should and we resist the reality of what is true because it offends our ego. Self-compassion does not come easily to most of us – it is a deliberate practice. What if we could say to ourselves, “I am enough as I am, I am proud of myself for my patience and effort, I trust that I am where I should be, and I have faith in the process.” From there, growth is inevitable.