Being Gentle With Yourself

By February 10, 2014 Uncategorized No Comments

I recently moved from Texas to Pennsylvania and the whole experience has been so much harder than I thought it would be. We’re originally from the East Coast and chose to make this move to be closer to our families, but it has been a very difficult transition. But as with most hard times, I’ve learned something important that has really positively impacted how I live my life, and that’s what I want to share with you today. First, you’ll need a bit of backstory, though.

We first began planning this move over a year ago. We got everything in place and were all set to move, but due to a variety of circumstances outside our control, we ended up staying in Texas almost 6 months longer than we’d planned to. We lived in limbo for that entire time and it was hard on all of us. When we finally did move, the whole thing happened in a flash. We got the word that we were moving and we had to be completely relocated in less than 6 weeks. It was nuts. I handled all of the logistics of selling our home, finding a place for us to live in Pennsylvania, getting our stuff relocated, finding schools for our kids, etc. It was incredibly stressful and we all suffered from the general upheaval and lack of normal routines.

While I was in the stressful phase of making the move happen I did a lot of planning in my head as far as what our life would be like when we got to Pennsylvania. I somehow developed this idea that once we got to Pennsylvania we’d get unpacked in a week and I’d be able to jump right in with workouts, making friends, and settling into our new life. I thought we’d be so happy seeing our families more frequently that we wouldn’t even miss Texas. I thought my kids would transition seamlessly because they’re still very young. Yeah, it was going to be great! Go team!

Can you guess that things didn’t really work out that way? It’s been a few months and we still aren’t unpacked. I just started working out again a couple of weeks ago. The kids have had a harder time settling in than we thought they would. I still get lost regularly and haven’t made any friends yet. And to top it all off I miss Texas like crazy! Ugh. Things aren’t working out at all like I planned!

I had a lot of expectations about how “together” I’d be and how long it would take me to reach that level of togetherness after the actual move. I thought I’d be so together and as the mom I run the household so of course everything else would be totally ship-shape as well. Ha! I’m the queen of high expectations, especially for myself, and it is always an educational and humbling experience when life, other people, and (most importantly!) I don’t measure up to those expectations.

The one big thing I’ve learned from this most recent round of humbling experiences is that it’s okay to be gentle with yourself. What?? You other Type-A perfectionist overachievers may be rolling your eyes right about now but I’m telling you as a card-carrying member of the crazy Type-A perfectionist overachiever club, it really is okay, and even productive, to cut yourself some slack.

Here’s why: beating yourself up about failing to meet your own (probably unrealistic) expectations will lower your self-esteem and cause you boatloads of stress. This is like the 1-2 punch knockout combo for making everything in your life harder and ruining your health. It’ll make you cranky and less able to perform well at work, in your relationships, in life. On the flip side, being gentle with yourself will increase your self esteem (“Hey, I’m worthy of being treated with kindness! Ooohhh that feels so good!”) and lower your self-induced stress. This is all-around fantastic for every aspect of your life, because if you’re like most people you already have plenty of external stressors.

After our move, my stress level reached the point where I realized I had to start cutting myself some slack or I was going to lose it. I’ve been experimenting with being gentle with myself and while it is extremely difficult due to the nature of my personality and my habitual behaviors, I’m happy to report that my happiness and my productivity have increased! Yes, it’s possible to not be an insane control-freak Type-A overachiever and still get things done. In fact, I think I may actually be getting more done because I feel better about myself and am more relaxed and able to concentrate and think clearly. I’m better able to prioritize and complete things. I’m sleeping better because I’m not so wound up by all the extra cortisol that comes with excessive stress. Being nicer to myself has allowed me to be nicer to others as well, especially those who are close to me, which is a huge win.

For me, the practice of being gentle with myself takes effort on a daily basis to a) lower my expectations of what I can accomplish that day, and b) be okay with it if I don’t even meet those lowered expectations. I forgive myself when I realize I’m berating myself for not meeting my own expectations, which makes it easier to accept when others don’t meet my expectations either. I forgive myself when I do or say things I wish I hadn’t. I remind myself that I can try again in the next moment and that I can continually redefine how I approach my life. Somehow, relinquishing some control has allowed me to feel more in control, which is bringing me peace in a time of transition and upheaval. I’m reminded that life is about living it, learning from it, and being present with the ups and downs without judging them. I’m reminded that the secret to happiness is different for everyone but that a willingness to try new perspectives and behaviors can go a long way toward alleviating distress, especially if you’re heaping that distress upon yourself!

What about you? Do you have high expectations for yourself? Is it hard for you to accept things the way they are? Are you a crazy Type-A perfectionist overachiever like me? I’m here to tell you that there’s an easier way! Try a week of cutting yourself some slack and see what happens. I’m willing to bet you’ll experience a bit more clarity, peace, and productivity in your life.

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