Throughout 2019, we’ve teamed up with NLP Certified Coach Chantal Lacoste from Tillie + True to bring you a series of guest posts about topics like body image, vulnerability and perfectionism, and other anxieties and issues that can sometimes keep us up at night (or just keep us from feeling our best day-to-day). This week, we’re happy to share our fourth guest post from Chantal. She’s tackling the idea of how to purposefully put in the work required to change old habits in an attempt to be and feel our best… without making the inevitable failures and setbacks just one more thing to be down on ourselves about. Here’s what she had to say.
Someone reached out to me the other day and asked, “How in the world do you manage it all? You seem so busy?”
I responded with, “I’m not sure how I do it either...” as I awkwardly laughed and walked away.
After processing, I felt that I had missed an opportunity to share my truth, and I was unnerved with guilt. I wanted to tell her that, in reality, my neck and shoulders were in severe pain from working too hard. I hadn’t cleaned, done laundry, or spent any quality time with my family and friends in weeks, and I was neglecting and avoiding certain parts of my life so that I could ‘manage’ everything else on my plate – the things others could see. It occurred to me that choosing to connect and to admit that my life was ‘out of balance’ was healthier than feeling shame or guilt for not being entirely honest about my experience.
You see, shame and guilt are one of the many things I’m constantly trying to practice resilience from and improve in my life. Even though I try hard to let go of shame and practice compassion, I’m not always so kind to myself during the process.
Some of the other things I wanted to work on this year were the very topics I wrote about on Spark:
• practising healthier body image
• identifying emotions and experiences instead of numbing or avoiding pain
• letting go of perfectionism
• choosing authenticity over safety
• and practising courage, compassion and connection.
I know I'm not the only one who's too hard on themselves about their growth and improvement. Even with the deep desire to put in the work, I still catch myself having to pick myself up and start over again.
1. How do you improve areas in your life without being so hard on yourself?
Know that change doesn't happen overnight.
Something I've noticed is that even as the author of wellness posts, I still need to remind myself daily that compassion is a lifelong practice. Self-love and self-care is not something you adopt overnight with a single blog post or a few nights of saying mantras in the mirror. Deep, heavy, internal work takes time, effort, and a whole lot of patience.
Self-awareness is the start.
Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to challenge or reframe any defeating thoughts or feelings you may have.
What the heck is reframing? Glad you asked! Reframing is the practising of pausing to reflect on and challenge your self-defeating thoughts and feelings. When we can challenge our energy-stealing beliefs and look at the facts that are out of our control differently, we can then change how we see and feel about them entirely.
Look outside yourself.
Whether its a therapist, a coach, or a friend you trust, ask someone to help you hold yourself accountable for the improvements you’re committed to making. As long as they are honest and compassionate, a friend or supporter can be extremely helpful in noticing and identifying when you are being hard on yourself or resorting to old, unhelpful habits.
2. How do you make these tips a lifestyle?
As much as we want to take huge leaps and rip off our painful band-aid, small steps or small changes made one at a time can be the easiest way to process and recover.
Remind yourself why you want to make a change.
What is important to you? Why is this change important to you? Any lifestyle change needs to be meaningful and pleasurable to be maintained long-term.
Understand the feeling or emotion you are desiring deep-down.
For example, if an unwanted pattern you want to change is emotional eating or binge drinking, instead of relying on these old habits, try having a meaningful and honest conversation with yourself or a close friend to share what you’re experiencing. The conversation may ultimately give you the feeling you were longing for in the first place.
If what you needed was love and it was fulfilled with a conversation, you may be more inclined to repeat the more desirable, meaningful, and pleasurable behaviour over the other behaviour that only filled a void short-term.
3. Tips for when things go wrong or you feel overwhelmed
Write to your higher self.
Writing can help to free up your energy of worry or doubt. When we allow ourselves to listen to our intuitive wisdom, we can let go of unwanted thoughts that make us feel overwhelmed. If journaling is not your thing, add yourself to your text threads, and start a deep and loving conversation! No one needs to know who you're actually talking to… so gab away!
Deep-breathing and meditation.
I don't care how many times you've heard this: Mindfulness will always take the cake for self-care. If mindfulness isn't your thing or if you've never been able to focus enough to feel its effects, simply start with matching your breathing by 'drawing' symbols or letters in your imagination. A common exercise to start practising mindfulness is breathing while focusing on the distance between the points of a star. I dare you to try it right now! Go on, take a deep breath!
Adopting the desired changes in your life with compassion.
No matter how many times you ‘fail’ or how hard you are on yourself for not being 'perfect,' remember that your healing journey is a life-long process. There’s no quick fix when it comes to wanting to do better for yourself and those closest to you.
Whether it's being more mindful of how you spend your time and energy, or defeating unhealthy, negative habits, we need to be compassionate towards ourselves and share our failed and tried experiences.
Even if life doesn't go as planned or seems 'out of balance,' Brené Brown says it best:
“When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’ — my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’ ”
Now go get em, badass! You've got this. WE’ve got this.