Here is Part 2 of my 'Things to stop beating yourself up for’ series (read Part 1 here) ...
Stop beating yourself up for doing the same thing over and over, even though you know better.
I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again: Human beings are complex, networked systems.
A common reason why we as humans keep doing something even though we 'know better', is that only one PART of ourselves (usually our analytical brain) knows better, while the rest of our parts (our body, hormones, emotions, imagination, etc.) are still operating out of the status quo (usually the ingrained patterns of our youth and upbringing).
A good example of this is emotional eating. We might tell ourselves on a surface level: 'I want to be healthy. I should eat more greens. Mmmmm, salad!’
However, we don’t. We go home and eat chocolate instead.
And 'Bad person! Bad!’ we say, and feel terrible about ourselves ... which often leads to more chocolate-eating, and then 'Bad. Bad. Bad!’ and so on into a cycle of negativity that can become an unhealthy norm.
However, instead of feeling bad and beating yourself up for eating things you shouldn't, what if you just got curious?
Because in truth, when we can't stop doing something we want to stop doing, it's not because we are bad or useless or lacking in will ... it is because there is some important unconscious/human need within us that is being ignored or denied.
For example, our compulsion to eat chocolate might stem from the fact that our life is really stressful!
In stress, our parasympathetic nervous system activates a number of complex physiological responses, including an overwhelming physical urge to binge on sugar and fatty foods. (Basically, our stress-induced cave-man brain is preparing for disaster and potential famine).
Working with our body instead of against it in this situation would mean setting down the need to beat ourselves up for eating bad foods, and acting to reduce the stress in our life instead.
Alternatively, it might mean learning some new coping-with-stress skills other than binging on food. OR, it might even mean simply allowing ourselves to eat badly during the stressful times in our lives, and then getting back into a healthy lifestyle once the stress dies down.
What I’m trying to point out here is that when we step out of the cycle of self-judgement, and engage instead with a sense of curiosity around our naturally occurring needs and impulses, then we open up a whole range of new choices that will allow us to live a more enjoyable life.
Other examples of common ‘failings’ that people like to beat themselves up for are:
- We beat ourselves up for procrastinating on work we should be doing.
- We beat ourselves up for going on the internet too much.
- We beat ourselves up for not being more organised.
- We beat ourselves up for having emotional outbursts.
So what if, instead of beating yourself up, you got curious?
You might find some interesting things about yourself. For example:
- Perhaps you aren’t motivated to work because your current work project is not aligned with your deeply held values and goals.
- Perhaps you go on the internet too much because you’re feeling lonely, and are missing a sense of companionship and camaraderie in your life.
- Perhaps you can't get organised because you are, in fact, really fucking bored with your current routine and desperately need new input and inspiration!
- Perhaps your emotional outburst was because your personal boundaries are being continually crossed by someone important in your life, and you are feeling a lot of frustration and pain.
Part of the trick here is to give yourself permission to have your own preferences, values, desires, and weaknesses, instead of continually requiring yourself to fit into outward ideals of success or social correctness.
Start to realise that the problem here is not the fact that you can't change. The problem is your own disconnect from your own personal desires and needs.
If you review the bulleted list above, for example, you can see that often the causes of our bad behaviour are actually the things that make life worth living: our deeply held values, the urge to share our lives with other humans, the need for excitement and inspiration, and the need to uphold our own personal boundaries and sense of self-respect.
Connecting with THESE things instead of beating yourself up for the bad behaviour itself, is going to be your key to creating the kind of life that truly makes you happy.
Whether or not you feel able to DO anything about it just yet, becoming aware of your internal resistances is an important first step into understanding who you are and what you want out of life.
So what to do next time you find yourself doing the same thing over and over, even though you know you shouldn't?
Start getting really interested in those places in your life where you feel stuck.
Allow yourself to be present to what is there within you WITHOUT JUDGEMENT (or when you can't help but judge, allow yourself to let go of the judgement and move on).
Start to open your mind to the fact that the core of that ‘silly’ behaviour will be an important aspect of yourself/your life that you have been ignoring or repressing up until now …
And if you need any help along the way, don’t hesitate to get in touch!