One of many shared experiences of being human is the need to feel loved. For many of us, this need plays out in our personal and professional lives driving our actions—get a good job, work hard, get married, have kids, stay married, get promoted, accomplish more, and do what we “should”—so we will meet the conditions we’ve placed on being loved.
Stop Should-ing Yourself
In the mind, if there’s something we feel we “should” do, it means we’ve created a rule for ourselves that goes something like this: “If I don’t do this thing, I will be less valued. I will feel inadequate. I will be judged as bad or wrong. I will be less lovable.” To avoid this suffering, we try to do it all, be it all, and juggle it all.
From my own experience, this should-ing cycle turned me into a chronic people pleaser, feeling guilty or selfish if I wasn’t overly involved in taking care of others’ needs, constantly over-doing and exhausting myself to prove my value. On the miraculous weeks when I managed the impossible with my career-job, parent-job, daughter-job and friend-job, my cup overflowed. I was thrilled and totally unstoppable! But when life threw an extra ball, or maybe a cat, into my perfectly timed “I can do this” juggling act, all hell broke loose (and I was surrounded by cat hair and balls). Depleted and overwhelmed, I became vulnerable to feeling like a failure at any given time.
Women and men in this category often struggle with self-criticism, self-cruelty, disappointment, doubt, disillusionment, or even depression. Should-ing is the opposite of resilience. It’s self-destruction. If you find yourself in this place, I invite you to join me in exploring a question:
Wouldn’t it be great to feel more loved by the person inside—the one you spend the majority of your time with?
What would that look like? Consider a few of the steps below as a way of showing up for yourself, if for no other reason than to be better prepared for the next time life tosses you a pissed-off cat.
Take an Active Role: Become your best friend. Notice when you’re not being kind to yourself and change the conversation. We communicate within ourselves all the time. Make that communication self-supportive.
Build Self-Trust: Think of your last failed attempt to lose those pesky pounds. Stop letting yourself down. Set reasonable expectations in the category of health, not weight loss. Do what you say you will for yourself, because you have integrity and you’re worthy of that level of integrity.
Be Generous: Acknowledge yourself for all the little and big things you’re doing to be more loving. Encourage yourself and allow the deepest part of you to see that you’re noticing how differently you’re treating yourself.
Don’t Over-Promise: Small steps toward big goals count and they work. For more on the science behind this, a short book on this topic is One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.
Keep Your Commitments: More than once I’ve kept a brunch or movie date with myself, even if someone else blew it off. If I was looking forward to it in any way, then it mattered to a part of me. Treat the inner you like you would someone you care about. Turn the next cancelled meeting into an opportunity to do something enjoyable or self-honoring!
Tuesday is as good a day as any to strive for a better version of yourself. A great place to start is offering yourself a little more love!
*Inspired by a calendar created by Jacquelyn, a Keenan realizing her own fullest potential.