Being too hard on yourself
I don't think I'm the only one who beats myself up for not being the healthiest I could be, not living 'my best life' (what is that anyway?? It's the worst hashtag in the world as it makes us all feel inferior), shifting goalposts and missing training sessions. So, why do we beat ourselves up about it so much when actually we all know that self care is what we need?
For me, it‘s not a case of feeling pressured by other people or society. In fact, I feel incredibly supported and inspired by others, even from the posts I see on social media, which I know for others can me a minefield of triggers. But instead, the pressure and negative voices are all in my head. I’m sometimes my own worst enemy beating myself up for decisions I sometimes can’t avoid making. For example, I regularly stress myself out if I physically can’t fit in exercise or if I eat the ‘wrong’ thing. It goes against everything I know as a nutritionist and coach, and the advice I give others, for some reason I cannot give myself. Even when my body and mind is exhausted and the best thing to do is to relax and rest, I beat myself up. I know myself, I know my own pressure and my own needs, I know what makes me happy, I know when I need to take time and give myself a break, as well as knowing when I need to just get on and do it. I'm not a stranger to just putting on my trainers, not thinking about it and just getting out of the door (it's so much harder than it sounds), so why then I am still so hard on myself when I don't excersie 'enough' or eat 'unhealthy'? When does this feeling go from being motivational to being detremental? How can I be better at just being kind to myself and doing what my mind, body and lifestyle need and require of me?
Over the last 6 weeks I've barely been keeping up with training. I've gone from training for a broken down half ironman, to barely running twice a week. My time has well and truly been taken over by shifting priorities, as after 19 months of being on the market, our (mine, Matti and Buddy's) flat has sold and we needed to start house hunting - sounds fun right? I thought so to. I thought it'd be like 'Location, Location, Location' but throw in financial pressure during Covid-19 for us and the banks, and the fact that the market has gone bonkers, it's all been pretty horrendous. This came at a time when our first year of accounts on our other business needed to be, when we were also in lockdown and wondering what the future held for us and our loved ones, which in turn raised so many questions about how we want to live our lives and what's important to us. I’ve still been working full time, training for my nutritition diploma and training for my races. Something had to give, and like always, the first thing that gets squeezed out is time for exercise. It’s not even that I don't have the time, somedays I just physically and mentally don't have the energy. And you know what, it's fine. It's absolutely fine. I needed rest and I need to prioritise, but just to throw that extra bit of stress and pressure into the mix, I then start to feel stressed about that too - great.
You may be asking yourself why I’m sharing this with you, and believe me I’ve considered it myself. Who wants a life coach and nutritionist who can’t keep to their own goals or plans? I want to share it with you because it’s real and no matter how hard we all try, sometimes our goals and priorities have to change in order for us to make the ultimate healthy choices of not running ourselves into the ground. Above all, I want to share my circumstance in order to hopefully inspire and start conversations with others about how hard we are on ourselves and how we all need to be kinder and go easier. This is an important a lesson for working towards our goals, achieving our ambitions and building resilience.
How am I going to be kinder to myself going forward? Starting this month I’m rearranging my goals, being mindful and thinking about what makes me happy. To set my goals I’m going to ask myself what I need to do and what I want to do. I also need to be realistic - the races I entered and was training for have all been cancelled, so I don’t need to be doing such long distances or high levels of training. I can use exercise as part of my well-being and changing my expectations from training to get fitter and faster, to exercising to maintain my health, get outdoors and give myself some space. I can go from running 30 miles, riding 90 miles, swimming 5k and weight training every week, to instead using excersie as a break, a time to get out of the house and instead of doing hours, doing 30 minutes of easy exercise.
I am going to be mindful of what I eat without restricting myself. I can have a glass of wine at the end of the day as it helps me unwind. I am going to remind myself that it doesn't need to be a big deal when the mindful benefits outweigh the negiative conatations.
To remind myself that I am doing a good job and ensuring my happiness comes first, I’ve set myself a new list of goals that now include the things I’m working on. This means that they don’t feel like extra, distracting focal points for me and I don’t need to then worry if I’m working in those instead of other priorities. In this new list are loads more fun things to do and enjoy this summer. They include, picnics, walks, watching the sunset from our flat whilst we still have our wonderful east facing sea views, camping and reading books. They are things I was doing anyway, but stressing that they felt like 'something else‘ I had to
fit into my busy days. Now they feel like reminders of things I need to do and I’m not guilty about doing them instead of doing something else.
I’ve also put things into perspective.... the stress I’m experiencing is going to result in a beautiful family home for me and my boys (human and furry). That's a pretty good goal to hold onto. Instead of trying to do it all, I will focus on this new goal and ensure that I do just one thing a day for me to make me feel good about myself - a walk, a run, writing my blog! That way I hopefully won't beat myself up about not doing everything but celebrate doing something that makes me feel better.
I’m not even going to try to do everything. I’m going to write an achievable list at the start of each day that includes one thing working towards each of my goals. I’m not going to be specific about what the tasks are so that I avoid disappointment in myself if I don’t do them. But by writing an intention down I can make time for it and know that I’m doing something. Here’s what my list was for Friday just gone -
- go for nice walks with Bud (I have to do that anyway as he needs walking!)
- do something towards helping move
- do something for myself
Having now spent time thinking about the pressure I put on myself I realise it’s made me ill. I’ve been grumpy, I’ve been stressed, I’ve not been the person I want to be. It’s made me realise that sometimes the goals I set myself don’t motivate me or encourage me to hold myself accountable, they can stress me out. It’s at that point that I need to ask myself why they are my goals, are they still important to me and do they need to change. If I don’t I just end up feeling awful which is the opposite of what you want to happen.
Why do I even set goals if they sometimes make me feel bad? Good question, but I find that if I don’t I can feel like I’m drifting. Like I’m treading water and I’m not making any difference to mine or the lives of others. As you’ve read from my previous blog, I want to live life to the full, I want to experience everything and leave the world in a better place. For me, I find that goals help me feel like I am working towards this. They give me purpose and peace of mind. But if the last few months has taught me anything, it’s that goals need to be flexible. They need to breath and flex. They are for us to set and change as we see fit. They are not the boss of us but the other way round!
So, if like me you find yourself beating yourself up because you feel like you’re not achieving, ask yourself - what‘s important to me right now? Is what I’m doing making me happy? Only then can you readdress your goals and shift your gaze to ensure your time is spent doing things that fill your heart with joy and help you be the person you want to be.
“If you can’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?” The amazing Ru Paul