This morning, I was scrolling through that font-of-all-procrastination that we call Facebook, when I came across an article about a lady who challenged herself to drink the advised 2 litres of water each day for a week and kept a daily diary.
It made vaguely interesting reading, as I waited for my coffee to brew and cleared up the breakfast dishes, having taken the kids to school, putting off the moment of switching on my computer and unleashing the past 24 hours’ emails.
Her conclusion was that she felt a bit better with more water and would continue to drink more, but wasn’t going to keep the 2 litres a day up after that initial week. It hadn’t made enough of a difference for her. Fair enough. My Inner Engineer / hobby nutritionist wanted to point out that the body takes six weeks to reach homeostasis – balance – after a major diet or lifestyle change, but no one was listening apart from the dog, so I shut up.
But here’s what really struck me about the article:
This lovely lady, who was so authentically sharing her week’s journey, was falling into the exact same trap that keeps most of us paralysed into non-action, when it comes to making changes in our lives that are based around self-care.
She was aiming too high.
Her inner perfectionist was making success nearly impossible, so she quit.
This lady talked about how she beat herself up on one of the days, for not having drunk enough water at key ‘check-in’ points of her day. She felt guilty about slipping in a couple of coffees over the week, despite having a long-term caffeine habit and a very busy schedule. She was still slugging down the day’s water ‘requirement’ at 11pm, in her determination not to ‘fail’, despite it being guaranteed to give you sleep-disturbing pee-breaks.
Now, this lady clearly has significant reserves of willpower. I’m impressed! And, from her writing, is single and with no kids. So she can set her own agenda and choose how she uses her time.
What happens for the rest of us, once we add in the instinctive habit of putting our children’s needs first, having to cook, wash and clean for the household, remembering to walk the dog, feed the cat, pick up the dry cleaning AND then run our businesses or careers?
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Self-care goes out of the window. It falls to the bottom of the ‘to do’ list and is the one item that we kid ourselves can drop, without anyone complaining.
So let’s look at the psychology of this for a moment.
When we’re feeling overloaded, we subconsciously prioritise two types of activities: those for which there is a ‘pain’ effect, if we don’t do them, and those that feel easy.
If we allow our inner perfectionist to raise the bar as high as she does on self-care, it’s no wonder we never get started. Our inner critic tells us all the reasons why, if we don’t meditate for an hour or drink two litres of water or dare to have a sneaky latte, mid-afternoon, we’re a failure. So we’d rather not get started than risk not being good enough.
I’m with you, Soul Sister!
But if we don’t look after ourselves – if we don’t top up our own batteries – we risk getting cranky with our loved-ones, resenting our addiction to over-giving, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, fog-brain, adrenal fatigue and even illness and burnout.
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Is your inner perfectionist sabotaging your self-care?
Confession Time: How Do ** I ** Do This?
Here are some of the crazily-common excuses my inner perfectionist triggers, getting in the way of me topping up my inner batteries:
- There’s no point in drinking water because I will ‘never’ be able to manage the full 2 litres a day
- I don’t have a full hour to meditate, so I won’t bother [tip: you can create deep shifts with mindfulness in under sixty seconds – blows this excuse out of the water – and you can change your life with meditation in under ten minutes a day]
- I’m too tired to do yoga – even though I love restorative yoga, which is exactly what I need at that point
- I’m too busy to eat a ‘proper’ healthy meal – so toast will be fine… again…
- If I stopped, the world would fall apart, so I have to keep going
- Sitting down and reading a book is selfish, if my husband is busy
- Taking the ‘perfect’ combination of supplements is too difficult / complex / expensive, so I won’t bother taking any
- I don’t feel up to the full 30 minutes of exercise we’re ‘supposed’ to do each day, so I won’t do any
- I don’t have the energy to give up caffeine completely, so I won’t bother cutting down
- The supposedly ‘perfect’ morning routine ends up so complex, I don’t bother. I mean, what order is it meant to go in? Oil pulling then lemon water then yoga then meditation and THEN the kids have permission to wake up?! 😉
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Do you run excuses / beliefs like these? What are your favourites? How about spending a moment, just now, to let a few answers bubble up for:
I can’t do proper self-care, because…
Can you spot the common theme in here? It’s the one most of us are running:
“I’ll never be good enough.”
Bollocks. ‘Scuse my French.
Who set those ‘good enough’ / perfection standards?
Me! You! And we can choose to get off that train.
In Dare To Dream Bigger, I guide entrepreneurs and passionate world-changers through the seven steps they need to take, to do the ‘inside work’ that sets you free to be who you really are and to make the difference you are really here to make in the world. And in Step 7 I give you my biggest secret for turning your Inner Critic into your biggest cheerleader – and it’s the key to stepping outside of your comfort zone, especially if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. That surprisingly simple secret is:
Celebrate even the tiniest successes – each and every day.
Day by day, this retrains the bit of your brain that filters sensory information (the Reticular Activating System) to spot things that are going well, instead of just what is going wrong. This shifts the focus on your thoughts and physically retrains your internal dialogue. It is rewiring your neurological pathways, which create your thought habits.
The engineer-approved woo-woo:
Your thoughts are like an inner radio station. When you’re tuned in to the inner critic channel, you’ll be putting out the vibes to the world of not being good enough. You’ll self-sabotage by turning down opportunities you would have loved to say ‘yes’ to. You’ll come across as less confident, more stressed and not so much fun to be around. You will magnetise people and events into your life that match up with that frequency. It literally resonates through each and every one of your cells.
If you can make gratitude part of your daily routine – celebrating what you created and did well, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem – you soon switch radio station to the inner cheerleader channel.
You’ll find yourself lining up with more positive people and noticing the things that are going well in your life, attracting more of those.
You’ll be much less likely to self-sabotage and your cellular biology (proven by scientists) will catch up and improve your health.
Hint: keeping a daily gratitude journal can really help – here’s one I prepared earlier, in true Blue Peter style.
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BUT… What’s The Most Common Hidden Block That Gets In Our Way?
If we’re avoiding self-care (i.e. believing in our totally-justifiable excuses 😉 ), then there’s often a fear of change, running below the surface.
Psychologists call this ‘Secondary Gain’ – it is about identifying what the ‘positive intention’ of that seemingly-crazy behaviour is – what is it doing for us. Once you find a healthier way to meet that hidden need, the out-of-date habits melt away.
If you want to find out more about this, we go through exactly how to spot and handle secondary gain in the ‘clearing out your blocks’ section of Dare To Dream Bigger. Start at page 83 if you have the hardback version “Why Do So Many Of Us Resist Clearing Out Our Blocks” if you’ve got the Kindle version.
How about making self-care easy…?
[one_half_first][/one_half_first][one_half_last]Imagine if, instead of self-care being about the ‘perfect’ diet or the ‘perfect’ amount of water or the ‘perfect’ amount of meditation, yoga, sleep, aromatherapy, massage, walking in nature, mindfulness apps, it could be about stepping stones?
Could you pause for a moment, right now, and jot down a list of 15 things you could do that would be showing yourself self-care – all of which are free or near-free and would take you under ten minutes?
If you feel you could share them via the comments, that will inspire others, too.
Now, how does that feel?
What shifts inside you, as you break self-care down into chunks that could actually climb up your ‘to do’ list? How does it feel to let go of self-care needing to be perfect?
How about if you considered each and every tiny act of self-care to be ‘good enough’ and celebrated it?
How might that shift your experience of life? Which benefits could it have for you?[/one_half_last]
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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”If you could wave a magic wand…”] … What kind of self-care might you choose today?
Hint: guess who’s holding that magic wand…?[/thrive_text_block]
My invitation to you today:
Pick one of those self-care things to do each day for the next week. Get it in your diary or as a reminder on your phone. And play with this. Notice what happens. Perhaps keep your notes in your gratitude journal? Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day. Allow yourself to relax into this and see it as a journey.
And let me know, via the comments, what you’re choosing to do and how it’s going to make you feel.
I’d love to hear from you.
Want To Start A Micro-Self-Care Revolution?
Do you know any other passionate world-changers who would love to play along with this? Please share this article with them, via social media. The more the merrier.
And once you’ve played with this for a few days, I invite you to spend a few moments with a cup of your favourite tea, reflecting on whether there are any other areas of your life where your inner perfectionist is accidentally making things much harder for you than they need to be.
If there are, then Step 2 of Dare To Dream Bigger has practical self-mentoring strategies and life-changing insights for the next stage of your journey. I would love to get to walk by your side.
With love and gratitude,
Author, Speaker, Inside Work Mentor to Entrepreneurs & Passionate World-Changers