Spring cleaning the mind

Many of you already know that I’m spring cleaning – I love it! A cleaning service came to help with the actual cleaning part today. It’s fantastic and I highly recommend it to anyone! I still have to get through the decluttering and reorganizing (cupboards, closets, storage room), treat all of our wood with oil, and do touch-up painting. That’s all before we get started with outside. I’m sure you have a to-do list that’s similar. Part of the decluttering includes getting a dozen or so magazines read and thrown away.

In doing so, I read an article by Martha Beck that hit me like a ton of bricks. This particular part is what got me: “Many people think that self-hatred is a catalyst for positive change. <em>Au contraire</em>. Reject anything about yourself – your bad habits, your appearance, your impulse to laugh uncontrollably at funerals – and you’ll get brief, white-knuckle attempts at self-improvement that consistently end in relapse.” I know. My jaw hit the floor, too, especially in light of the difficulty I’ve been having lately. I had to take mental inventory of whether I’d actually ever MET Martha Beck. It was one of those she’s-talking-about-me-and-everyone-is-staring moments.

I don’t know where this self-hatred comes from in us. Scientists say we tend to focus more on the negative and that we’re more likely to remember a negative situation than a positive one. We’re a fun group. Why would this be ingrained? Is it some sort of survival mechanism? Are we just automatically playing back, in our mind, every negative thing that was ever said to or about us? Why can’t we let it all go?

Part of the problem in this day-and-age is probably the to-do list I mentioned earlier. We’ve got so much on our lists – at home and at work. We rarely, if ever, get it all done. We always see ourselves as deficient. It’s more than that, though – our bodies aren’t perfect, we’re not as smart as the next guy, we don’t make as much money as the Jones’, we’re not as successful as our friend. The list goes on.

What can we do to combat the self-flagellation with every alleged misstep? It takes a lot of practice, I think – a lot of talking back to the inner critic. In addition, we need to purposefully take the time to speak to ourselves in a gentle manner. To start this, I’m going to try to take 10 minutes or so a day to sit with my eyes closed (without falling asleep) and list the things I’m grateful for – including some things about myself. I know it sounds like just another thing to put on that to-do list but bear with me.

To do this right, there are a couple things we have to forget about: the first is what everyone else can do to make us feel better about ourselves (they can’t – this is a one-man show) and the second is what we need to have happen (more money, bigger house, weight loss) in order to feel better about ourselves. We are who we were intended to be…and, even if we’ve been sort of a downer (to ourselves) in the past, we’re over that! Let’s start living like we love ourselves and like we believe in our innate goodness. We really do have that choice and it sounds so much better to me than the alternative.

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