One Day Women’s Writing RetreatIf you have chronic stress, if you’re feeling burnt out, and are tired of hearing the judgy, Inner Critic voices telling you what you “should” do, then it’s time to let in awareness and compassion for yourself—not just for other people. You do this by asking for help and by being gentle with yourself. I won’t lie to you: this is hard work for me too. I’m still a sniveling neophyte in this area because my whole life I’m been beating myself up pretty hard.

This may be quite hard to do if you’ve let your ego run things and think you don’t need to change nothin’. Besides—changing something is hard and involves pain. Who wants that? It can also be hard if you grew up in an emotionally distant and/or dysfunctional family.

This this kind of environment you probably had to shut down your emotions. This was an important coping skill so you wouldn’t keep getting hurt by your abusive/neglectful caregivers—this doesn’t still serve you now! I was taught conditional love by my family and I never felt I could be good enough, so I kept striving. Ironically, my mom and dad thought I was a complete weirdo for striving so hard in school and never questioned why I was the way I was. My mom even told my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Weiss, that I should relax more—relax—ha, in my family? In high school I didn’t have to worry about doing typical teenage stuff (staying out late with friends, not being where I was supposed to, going to parties), because I didn’t get invited to much of anything, unless I was the president of the organization and I organized the party. I learned how to have control over my social environment, but the consequences were that I felt nobody liked me for who I really was. They would only like me if I organized a good party. I still have these feelings today.

Be aware that you might be burying your feelings in passive aggressive behavior, avoidance, procrastination or addictive behaviors: being an alcoholic, workaholic, chocoholic, retailholic, volunteeraholic. For this last one, it may sound like a wonderful thing to volunteer, but I was volunteering so that I could be socially accepted and be more likable. When I volunteered, I became a better version of myself and could step away from the real me. Please realize that I did all of these “aholic” activities automatically and never, ever analyzed why I did them, until I had several wake-up calls from my family.

I’d like to replay a conversation I had with myself not too long ago:

“Hello, Alice? It’s your conscience again. You continue to work 12 hours a day for peanuts, while you blow off your family who think your laptop is a permanent appendage. Remember when you accepted a gig on your own birthday and your family couldn’t be there to celebrate with you? And you’re hitting the white wine again. Really, three glasses on a Tuesday night? You don’t want to ask for more money because you’re afraid of getting rejected…yet again. But have you considered you’re on the fast track to burnout? If you keep working and working for nothing, you’ll be no good for nobody. Hey, here’s a lifeline. Please take it!”

Here are five ways to stop waging war on yourself:

  • Ask for help—don’t be closed off. Be receptive.
  • Be gentle with yourself to find peace
  • Look within yourself and find that you are already whole! You have nothing to prove!
  • Love yourself! Forgive yourself!
  • Practice the word “no.” Say “no” to all the things you think you should do like volunteer excessively or take on another client when your docket is full.

Finally, fear/rejection/deflation are not bad! If you ask for help and don’t get it—don’t give up! These feelings are a sign you are waking up and not numbing yourself. For if you keep numbing yourself, you’ll be closed off to the people who love you the most. Some people wake up after a divorce or an adult child estrangement, but it shouldn’t have to go that far!

I still have a problem embracing ALL of these concepts, but I’m making some progress—especially by sharing this blog with you today. I have to keep loving myself, my imperfect self. I find that love through writing, music, dancing. I also find that love in my children’s and husband’s eyes. I want to spend real time with my family with real conversations. I have to keep believing that I’m already whole and I don’t need to keep proving it. I’m totally a work in progress, but aren’t we all?