We all want to live a life without limits, but somehow it just isn’t that easy, says Christabel Smith.
We put it down to our past, other people or circumstances, but the truth is, all that’s holding us back is the self sabotaging voice inside our own head. Happily, we have the power to shut that nagging old parrot up, and listen to something much kinder instead.
Stop self sabotaging
Do you sometimes feel you’re your own worst enemy? Perhaps you buy that bag you can’t really afford, eat doughnuts after a workout at the gym, wake up hungover before a job interview or put off saying yes to a potentially exciting date.
Personal and business coach Kim Morgan says self sabotaging behaviour is unintentional and many people use it in a misguided attempt to protect themselves from difficult experiences and emotions. The way through is to understand what drives your behaviour. You may feel deep down that you don’t deserve that fulfilling job, healthy body or loving relationship.
Writing down examples of happy relationships in your life past or present, work successes, times you’ve felt good about the way you look. It’s the first step to turning negative beliefs positive, which, in time, leads to stronger self-belief.
Banish negative thoughts
We all have those annoying ear worms with a harsh, critical voice that tell us we’re not good/slim/clever enough. That we’re a bad mum/wife/daughter/employee. Psychologists call them Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs), and acknowledging and challenging them can be very helpful.
For example, imagine yourself rushing and spilling tea on the carpet. You berate yourself, "I get everything wrong!" Now take that thought to court. Where is the evidence that that statement is true? Isn’t it fairer to say you don’t generally drop drinks? The verdict is, we all slip up, especially when we’re stressed, and the simple learning is to give ourselves more time in future.
When a self sabotaging ANT invades your head, Imperfect Diva Blog founder Emily Bradley says try the STOP technique.
- Take a breath (a deep one, five counts in, five out).
- Observe how you’re feeling.
- Perspective? There you go – the world is still spinning.
Stop worrying about what 'they' will say
One of the most undermining forces we face is the fear of what other people might think of us. Back in Wilma Flintstone’s day, being disliked was a risky business because tribes brought protection from predators. Fast-forward a few million years and we’ve evolved with a fear of social disapproval.
Who we really are gets drowned out if we obsess over what ‘they’ will say. Imagine you’re at a vintage market stall and fall in love with a wacky hat or some funky purple boots. You hanker after them, but find yourself thinking, "What would great-aunt Ann/my neighbours/the vicar’s wife say?"
Check yourself. Would you judge others so harshly? No. So don’t be stifled. What’s the worst that can happen?
Try: If you’ve always wanted to join a street protest or wanted a bright pink car, go for it. As Emily Bradely suggests, "Chances are, the people whose judgement you’re so worried about won’t turn a hair."
Learn to be an imperfectionist
Perfection is impossible for any human, yet we all fall into the trap of seeking it. Who in all honesty can claim to have the ideal work-life-love balance, a dust-free home and A* children with sparkling teeth? Aiming for it and inevitably failing can lead us to feeling worthless and too scared to try anything, in case we don’t excel.
Try: Embracing the Japanese concept of ‘wabi-sabi’, which finds beauty in the seemingly imperfect – think wonky vegetables that taste amazing. Your child may be flunking exams but he or she has so much else to give and be celebrated for.
As a singer, Emily Bradley urges imperfectionists to create a ‘blooper reel’ (imaginary, written down or recorded), as a celebration of our off notes or banana-slip moments, without which we’d learn nothing.
You're wonderful just the way you are, so start loving your imperfections!
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Lauren is the former Deputy Digital Editor at woman&home and became a journalist mainly because she enjoys being nosy. With a background in features journalism, Lauren worked on the woman&home brand for four years before going freelance. Before woman&home Lauren worked across a variety of women's lifestyle titles, including GoodTo, Woman's Own, and Woman magazine.
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