I’ve noticed a pattern arising. As you know, we recently adopted a puppy dog, and her arrival has had a massive impact on our lives. The first couple of months I simply could not show up for my business as I used to. I stopped writing, I had to cancel classes and to rearrange coaching clients and yoga students. I felt awful. I was doing the bare minimum and it did not feel good at all. But it was not just my business that suffered. For the first time I felt unable to keep up with life in general and both my wellbeing and my relationships suffered as a result.
I have been putting a lot of thought into this lately, especially now that I’m starting to get back into some sort of routine. It’s not the same as it used to be and I’m still struggling to accept that, but I know that to find peace I need to let go of my expectations on how things should be. But what I’ve noticed in myself and also with a lot of my coaching clients is the lack of awareness when it comes to dealing with such adjustments.
What has more impact on your wellbeing? The change itself, or the pressure you put on yourself to cope with it? I caught myself struggling with the idea that I’m struggling and to deal with it, instead of giving myself some time to adapt and learn, I went straight into ‘fix-it’ mode. I gave myself a hard time for having to find cover for classes and for not writing posts and newsletters. I added things on my list to-do, because I tried to take control of the situation, when in fact what I needed to do the most was to acknowledge I actually don’t have control. I called myself a bad friend and daughter and sister and granddaughter for not being there for my people. I blamed myself for not just slotting effortlessly into being a fur mama who can handle it all with grace (and whose dog is obviously perfectly trained). Although in my heart I knew this was not the way, my head was way too loud. I was petrified of losing myself.
So how do you deal with not being able to show up in your life as you aspire to? What if you can’t do the things you used to? What if you really want to but you simply are unable to? My experience is that most of us jump straight into feeling crappy about ourselves and judge ourselves against unrealistic expectations. It is the expectations that deeply harm you. It is the resistance against the change that’s already happened that causes the most pain. I’m not suggesting that we should just throw in the towel when the going gets tough. Quite the opposite actually. I’m talking about identifying your ego talk (the incessant mind chatter), your perception of how things ‘should be’ and sit with how all of that leaves you feeling. (In my case, pretty shitty). Ask yourself if you actually respond to the guilt trip your ego is pulling you into, or it just leaves you feeling helpless and paralysed.
The thing is we all struggle at times and although we are gentle and empathic towards others in this situation, we find it extremely difficult to show the same compassion towards ourselves. The fallacy is that ‘tough love’ is more effective than self compassion. Yet more often than not, self judgment leads you right back to self sabotage and it is only by switching on massive amounts of self acceptance, self love and patience, you will make space for meaningful change. We try to grip too hard, too much and we forget that at these times it’s the opposite we need. Surrender, not in passive submission, but to let yourself be carried to a place where you’ve never been before. Release what you think your life should look like, so you can step into what your life actually is and make it yours.
7 Steps to dialing down self judgment and increasing self compassion
- Acknowledge your unrealistic expectations and unhelpful judgmental thinking: those stories about how things should be, what you’re doing wrong, how you’re letting people down etc. Write them down.
- Sit with how these disempowering stories are making you feel.
- Identify where you can dial down the ‘shoulds’
- Every time you notice yourself going back to one of those stories, switch on self compassion. Think of how you would speak to someone close to you who’s struggling and direct this kind talk to yourself.
- Write down 3-5 things you allow yourself to pause or say no to during the adjustment period – take action.
- Choose 1-2 people who can call you up on when you’re being too harsh on yourself.
- Every day commit to one activity (even for 5mins) that provides you with comfort and pleasure and leaves you feeling worthy.