Give yourself a break
We work long, hard hours. We provide for our families. We help others when they need it. We care, we share, we give whatever we can to whoever needs it the most. We cook for our children and clean their clothes. We lend our friends money and don’t ask for it back. We roll into bed with a list of unfinished tasks and we start it all over again the very next day.
We should be proud of ourselves. We should take a look in the mirror at the end of another long day and feel a sense of achievement. We solved that problem, we dodged that bullet, we made it through alive.
But we don’t. We just don’t. Instead, we berate the extra lines on our face and frown at the hint of extra curves on our bodies. We ignore the tasks we ticked off and we rail at the ones we didn’t. We get cross, we get frustrated and we decide we have failed.
We should have worked an extra hour instead of watching TV. We should have gone to the gym instead of eating cake. We should have played with our children instead of turning on their iPad.
To me, the word should is among the most pointless words we could ever use.
All it does is serve as a tool to elicit guilt and shame. Instead of using the word should, what about replacing it with ‘I could have but I didn’t because...’
I should have gone to the gym......I could have gone to the gym but I didn’t because I was so tired and needed a rest.
I should have played with my child...I could have played with my child but I needed some space after working all day.
I should have done what my family wanted me to do......I could have done what my family wanted me to do but I wouldn’t have been happy.
There is a reason I have used the word we in this post, instead of you. Every single thing I write about comes from a place I know all too well. In recent times I have held a hammer over my head as an extremely unforgiving taskmaster for myself. No matter how hard I work, how well my children do, how clean my house is, it's never ever good enough. A common theme with my clients too, it's led me to reflect on the deeper reasons behind why sometimes we just can't seem to give ourselves a break, and why we harbour resentment towards ourselves when we already appear to be doing everything we possibly can.
The answer is that really, it's not about the work, the children, the house. or anything else we are doing on a daily basis. We are being hard on ourselves for something else entirely, and until we are at peace with whatever that is, the rest will never be enough. So it's time to ask ourselves some tough questions.
Why do we never feel good enough? Why are we pushing ourselves so much? What are we punishing ourselves for?
Some decisions and paths we choose to take in life are incredibly difficult ones. The choices may in fact be seemingly impossible ones, with no easy outcome. Sometimes we may disappoint others, not do the things our parents wanted us to do, and we may not live up to the expectations of the people around us. In darker times, our choices may cause disruption, sadness and even unavoidable pain to others, even when they are still absolutely the right choices.
But what we can’t do, is then spend the rest of our lives driving ourselves to make up for them. The truth it that the guilt we hold for the choices we have made, the dislike for the person we are, causes us to push and push ourselves to be better in other ways. But it’s a fruitless task and we know it. We can’t change the decisions we made in the past, we may never be quite good enough for our parents, and we can't make everyone else happy all the time.
I’ve been quiet on the blog front during the past few months and even that has been something to berate myself over.
I should have written more blog posts......I could have written more blog posts but I didn’t because I had a million things going on and needed less things to think about for a while.
I need to give myself a break and so do you. We are living in a crazy world right now and we are learning as we go along. We are trying our best. Sometimes, all we need to do is take the evening off, have a long hot bath and watch rubbish on TV. Sometimes, we need to do a little more. We need to give the person inside the kind of emotional break they've never had. We need to come to terms with who we are, what we've done and the choices we have made, and stop punishing ourselves in an eternal battle to make up for it. If we don't, we will never feel that what we do is ever truly good enough, and we'll forever be pushing ourselves to do more and more and more.