Here we are at the last week of January (can you believe it) and the final letter in my self-care anagram: E. Encouragement. Do you know what happens when you do a search for self-encouragement? You get lists of positive things or be-your-best-self quotes and enough trite recommendations to go over your daily allotment of sugar.
Seriously – wikihow has a lovely little list of nine ways to support and encourage yourself which include: be proud of yourself, trying being your own best friend, and keep a sense of humor. Oh, and exercise. That’s how I like to encourage myself. Not.
I’m not sure how quotes and sayings are supposed to be encouraging when they come from us, because let’s face it, most of the time when I try to say something positive to myself there’s another voice in my head that rapidly chimes in with something along the lines of, “Yeah, right. Haven’t you noticed…” and the negative self-talk comes rushing in faster, louder and more abundantly. That kind of encouragement can help when it comes from other people, although even then I can usually fight it off with some “proof” of how I’m screwing up. Ah, the brain – it looks for the dangerous and finds the negative every time.
Not all the lists of things you can say to yourself are foolish. Some of them make very good affirmations, and I believe in the power of those. Instead of sentences like “You’re wonderful” to which my head has many bitchy retorts, I prefer some of the ones on AimHappy.com such as “I am taking my life one step at a time. My next step doesn’t need to be a big one.” Or “I don’t need to have all the answers. I have the courage to honor the questions before the answers come.” And “With time, effort and dedication, I can learn what I need to succeed.” Those are more along the lines of things I can hear, things I can say which help me make a shift to a more positive feeling. That’s encouraging.
One of the things that’s happened while writing these blogs is a heightened awareness of all the components, those that are in my life and those where I need to step up my game. As I mentioned earlier this month, I have a goal around making myself a priority and self-care is how I’m starting that process. As I thought about encouragement, I not only noticed the places where I’m not kind to myself (which brings me back to C – compassion) but I noticed that when it comes to me, I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do.
I was writing in my morning pages and I wrote “I don’t keep my word to myself.” I started at the page for a while taking in what that meant. When it comes to doing for others, I am proud of my integrity. I can be counted on to do what I say, and I am careful not to promise or offer something I can’t do. But when it comes to myself? Oh yeah, those promises can be broken. There’s no consequence when I do that, right?
I’ve written about my working to lose weight. This is one of those places where I am quick to drop/change/ignore my word. I tell myself I’m following Weight Watchers, and then the list of exceptions starts. Except on weigh in day, and maybe the weekends, and oh look, here’s something else I wasn’t expecting. Once I start breaking my word, it’s easy to continue. The same holds true for when I plan my day. I keep a bullet journal and I love it, but when I don’t look at it, or decide that things can be skipped or moved to another day, I’m once again telling myself that what I want for myself is not important.
There’s a cost to that.
How can I be a priority in my life if I’m breaking my word to myself? I can’t. I’m not. It’s a huge piece that’s been missing and once I noticed it, it became amazingly clear what I have to. I must keep my word to myself.
All. The. Time.
I’ve been doing this for the last week and I can feel a difference. I’m increasing the amount of time I spend writing each morning, and I don’t put off starting. I am eating better and getting to sleep earlier. There are a few places I still have some shifts to make, but once I remind myself that I want to keep my word to myself, I am able to feel a difference and then follow that by doing things differently.
And guess what – it’s HUGELY encouraging. Each time I do something I say I’m going to do, I feel great, and I especially feel great about myself. I’m proud of myself. I feel stronger and happier and just that much more capable of having all of the other dreams and goals I want for myself. It turns out that for me, and maybe for you too, having integrity toward myself is the best first step toward being self-encouraging and making myself a priority.