So how do you hold yourself accountable without beating yourself up when you are disappointed in yourself? Of what possible value is shame? Remorse, maybe, but shame?
Can we harvest all of the good parts of holding ourselves accountable without being harmfully critical of ourselves?
I think it’s a really fine balance, a really difficult spot sweet spot to hit, where you hold yourself accountable enough but you don’t chastise yourself, you don’t punish yourself… you don’t ruin yourself for yourself.
So how do we start to find that self-kindness without letting everything go?
I’m wondering what thinking about it in this way means, if just considering it is a kind of progress. I need to keep that what someone said to me last night front and foremost… “This is how it is right now, this is how it is in this moment. It is what it is. Live in the now as much as you can.”
I’m tempted continually to make all these grand plans. Plans and plans. I think that for me planning all those years ago was a survival target technique. I got through the bad days by having a 5-year plan, a 2-year plan, a 1-year plan, a 6-month plan, and a 1-month plan. And I would align goals and tasks and projects with those various plans and do what I could to meet them. And that helped me stay somewhat sane in an insane situation, made it easier to bridge the really bad times.
All the planning I did consumed a lot of mental energy that I probably didn’t have to spare. But I think it also functioned to keep me somewhat grounded in the worst of times because having a plan with goals and tasks assigned to it at least kept me putting one foot in front of the other.
Even the times when a plan failed and I couldn’t achieve the goals and couldn’t get the task done, I was able to retrench, so to speak, and come up with an alternate plan. Coming up with alternate plans and alternate ways of doing things is part of being a problem solver. It’s an iterative process… so you look at it and you try something and if that doesn’t work you try something else.
And achieving any of the goals gives you some resiliency, an inner strength that you can draw on when it seems like everything around you is falling apart. But in the bad times when it’s all collapsing around you, having your plans fall apart can also make you more fragile and more vulnerable.
I think that when you’re in that fragile and vulnerable place, you also get hypercritical of yourself. Everything becomes your fault. Especially if your abuser is telling you it is. You know it is true that the more you’re told something — even if you know better — the deeper it sinks in and becomes part of who you are. You’d think you could shrug it off, but you can’t.
I believe that while it’s relatively easy to change what you think — well… not easy but it can be done — changing who you believe you are is much more difficult because those pieces, those ideas that it’s all your fault that the bad stuff keeps happening that are laid over the top of you, over the top of your soul perhaps, they melt into you and become part of you.
So if we go back and look at the idea of extending the same grace to ourselves that we extend to others we find it’s really difficult without the knowledge that you can shed all the untruths you’ve held onto, the ones you’ve let into your core being.
How? Most days I don’t have the answer. Perhaps I just need to keep revisiting the idea to keep it in front of me and be aware of it. And to remember again what the person was saying last night — focus on the love — you could call it a mantra, I suppose, but keeping the thought in mind that this is how it is right now, this is how it is in this moment. And that previous moments and future moments may or may not be this way and that’s okay.
It’s not about a steady uptick in progress (although one hopes that the overall situation in general continues to improve). But it’s important to remember that across all the days of your life, even when you’re working on it, you’ll have ups and downs, maybe monthly ups and downs, weekly ups and downs, daily ones — hopefully not hourly, hopefully not minute by minute — but over time the ups and downs become actually part of the process, not right or wrong, but just what is, and we see them and recognize them for what they are, and know… know that they too shall pass. And then happen again, all for our edification and growth.
I think the secret is finding the place where you can allow the proper amount of grace for yourself. The place where you release those unnecessary critiques. But you have to do it without becoming complacent. Because a complacent human being is a smug and lazy human. If you’re complacent you’re not growing, you’re not learning.