Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do you beat yourself up? How to work towards self-love.

A couple of nights ago I had a very interesting and telling dream. I won't call it "bad" or even a nightmare because it was one of those dreams that was so blatant in its meaning that I learned from it - palpably and immediately - without much analysis or discussion. Here's how it went:
test dreams? yup- have those too!

I was scheduled to sub for one of my mentor's yoga classes. Not just a class in fact, but one of the monthly workshops she leads that are highly anticipated and well-attended. At some point, I look at the clock and realize I only have 15 minutes to get there but I'm in my parents house in Maryland without a car. There is no public transportation or cabs and it's also pre-sunrise for some reason- pitch black out- just to further confuse things. I decide to hop on my bike and race to the studio but halfway through the ride, I realize it's farther than I thought and I am already 15 minutes late for the class. Then...the dark part. I feel every muscle in my body seize up and the stress hormones course through my veins. Then, I begin punching myself - HARD - in the face. Repeatedly. Someone (or another part of myself?) is there too - telling me it's ok and holding my wrist tightly so I can't make fist to face contact. As soon as this person's grip slips off for a second I'm at it again- BOOM BOOM BOOM- literally beating the crap out of my own face.

And then I realize, that my clock is still in Eastern Standard Time, and the class doesn't actually start for another 45 minutes (disregard the fact that MD is EST and that's where the dream seemed to be "set"). So basically, I was beating myself up for a perceived failure that hadn't even happened yet and wasn't ever going to happen! And this perceived failure was something as silly as lateness! And you know what...this dream seemed all too familiar. I DO beat myself up. Not physically, thankfully, but with my own mind. Doubting myself. Second guessing myself. Playing smaller than I am. Avoiding risk to stay safe. Keeping quiet. Being my own worst critic.
waaa, i suck.

The good news is although I still slip into this old pattern of self-abuse from time to time, I've gotten much better at appreciating, supporting, and loving myself. I used to think less of people with "big egos" that were always bragging, self-promoting, and basically acting like their you-know-what didn't stink. There is a fine line between self-love/confidence and being a boastful ass, but there is no value in martyrdom or acting "mad Eeyore" as I often like to say. One of my other mentors once told me that although we are encouraged to be modest, being overly self-deprecating is a sign that your ego is in full control. It's masking your true, beautiful, authentic, shining self just as much as Kanye's big, "I'm the shit," ego - just in a a different way. A way that is far more destructive and painful. And you know what? He was right. 

Here's a few ways I am working to silence my inner critic...that big, loud-mouthed bee-yotch...

1) Meditate. You knew I was going to say that right? But seriously - for some reason most of my craziest, racing, you-suck-and-you're-always-gonna-suck thoughts happen first thing in the morning or right before bed. I think this is true of most of us who lean towards the anxious side. These are those thoughts that kept me up late tossing and turning as a high school student and as a young professional. Maybe you too roll over at 12, then 12:30, then 1:00am presumably to "check your phone" but really because your mind is keeping you awake reminding you how much you have to do that you didn't do enough of or well enough. Over-analyzing the day that just ended, or stressing out about the day to come (where you might be late or something HORRIBLE like that!). Sitting and meditating for twenty minutes gives you an opportunity to clear your mental cache and go back to your nice, clean, homepage. 

2) Turn to your support system - with CAVEAT. I am fortunate to have an extremely patient live-in support system: my husband Paul. We've been together since I was 22 so you know that poor man has seen himself a whoooole lot of crazy. Lots of different styles and levels of crazy too, but he's stuck by me through it all. Hopefully you have someone who is no more than a phone call away, if not in your own home.

BUT HERE'S MY CAVEAT: Do not approach your support system person and say, "I suck. I'm a terrible __________. I'm so fat and ugly. I never do anything right," - or something along those lines. Here's what you say: "I've been having really negative thoughts about myself just now. I know they are irrational, and I'm trying to work through them. I just needed to hear your voice." Don't put your support system on the spot. Don't make them fight against your crazy. The thoughts in your head are just that - silly little synapses and neurons that your brain is firing off like a BB Gun. Don't make your most loved, trusted friends dodge those bullets. Let them really support you by just being there. Telling you a funny story. Talking about their babies or dogs or anything else that puts a smile on your face. No one gets tired of being there for the people their love but you'll start to see your friends and family distancing themselves from you if you keep inviting them to the shooting range - and making THEM the target.

3) Put things in perspective. Remember that time you were starving, with no shoes, no clean water to drink, and very little hope of a brighter future? If the answer is no, then this directive should be pretty simple to follow. Generally the things we beat ourselves up about a very small, insignificant, and possibly even imagined hardships and failures. Instead of wallowing in a pity party, think of some way that you can help another person who is in need- either immediately, or in the near future. Even something small like making chicken soup for a sick coworker, saying a prayer for those who are truly suffering, or doing a Loving Kindness meditation
confidence does have limits

4) Get inspired. Some people like to talk shit about all the woo-woo positivity there is out there on the internet but you know what? It's NEEDED. With so much negativity in our culture- whether it's violence, greed, the glamorization of all sorts of vices on reality TV, or just the inaccessible and dangerous standard of thinness and beauty, it takes an army of sunshine-and-affirmations blogs to keep our psyches from being full invaded. As a yogi, I of course find much inspiration in class from my teachers, but there are so many easily accessible mental and spiritual gold nuggets of inspiration out there! There's Oprah's Super Soul Sunday, there's The Daily Love, Gabrielle Bernstein, about a million positive tweeters and if that all fails...text me. No seriously. From someone who has been as down-in-the-dumps to as completely full of the beauty and interconnectedness of all living beings everywhere, I got your back. If quotes and zen philosophy aren't your bag, go hang out with a baby, an animal, or in nature. They inspire just by existing.

5) Be your own "hype man" (or woman). Even if you haven't found your "calling" or your life's purpose yet, in reality all of us have the same job to do on this planet. It is to live OUR life to its very fullest. To do the best we possibly can with the unique traits, skills, and circumstances we are given. If you are religious, you might say this is to glorify God's creation. If you are spiritual, perhaps it's to serve the highest good of all beings everywhere. Don't let your ego make you think that person is "bragging" when they are openly, actively, and VOCALLY going for what they want with all their guts. They are letting the spirit - the prana - the life force- the whatever you want to call it move within them, without constructing those self-limiting barriers of "I'm not good enough" or "who do you think you are". The world is full of hardships, and suffering and setbacks, yes of course we know that to be true. But then why set yourself back? Why BE your own critic, when you know there are plenty of critics out there to do that job for you? Imagine that you are your own support system and you called yourself up and said, "Hey self, I'm having these really negative thoughts about myself and what I'm capable of." It might say, although not quite as elegantly, something like this (feel free to use this for #4 too):

Marianne Williamson: inspirational words like whoa.

"We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson 

Seriously. Please love yourselves. Love love love yourselves then go out and love other people. And then repeat.