There has been a theme in my client sessions this week. In fact, I’m guessing you may have been living this theme as well. “I wish I hadn’t __________.” You can fill in that blank spot with whatever is appropriate for you. Here are some of the variations I have heard:
- I wish I hadn’t eaten so much.
- I wish I hadn’t spent so much money.
- I wish I had stopped when I was full.
- I wish I hadn’t blown up at my mom (dad/sister/partner/kid)
- I wish I didn’t hate the holidays.
If this sounds familiar, I am guessing you may also be experiencing some of the self-blame and shame that often accompanies those “wishes.” You might have fallen prey to holiday expectations. You may be listening to an internal critic who is lecturing you about why you needed to have more self-control, how you just can’t stick with your healthy choices, how you will always feel bad. Goodness, those internal critics are unpleasant.
Are you nodding yet?
If you are, I’m inviting you to pause. Right here, right now. Take a nice deep breath, in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Try to exhale slightly longer than you inhale, but don’t force it. Do that a few times. (If you need more help pausing, you can check out this post.)
Now I would like you to revisit your “I wish I hadn’t . . .” statement. Think about whatever it is that you are regretting. My invitation for today is that you practice some self-compassion. This isn’t a permission to act in unhealthy ways, simply an awareness that we all stumble when we work toward goals. Compassion comes from better understanding your own behavior, so here are a few questions to get you started. It might be useful to jot down your answers to these questions in a journal or on some scrap paper.
- What was your intention at the time you did that behavior?
- How were you feeling at the time you ate/drank/shopped/argued?
- Were you stressed or overwhelmed?
- What did you hope to do? What was your plan or intention?
- Was your behavior different in any way from other similar times? (Example: if you are trying to watch your sugar intake, did you eat two pieces of pie instead of five?)
- How have you been affected in the past week by this behavior?
The goal of these questions is to move past the automatic “you are bad” messages that our self-critics use, and move into some deeper understanding of how you got to the behavior. Once you have a deeper understanding, then you can begin to practice some self-compassion. Here are a few examples of statements you might use with yourself:
- I didn’t meet all my goals for Thanksgiving, and I ate more thoughtfully than last year. I deserve credit for that effort. I am trying to take good care of myself.
- I got carried away shopping, and I was inspired by the idea of giving great gifts. If I overextended, I can return items. I can find other ways to show that I care.
- I didn’t act the way that I wanted to. I still deserve to give myself the best care I can. I can make choices today that reflect my commitment to my health.
Next week, I’ll look at ways to rethink some holiday traditions so that you can have fewer “I wish I hadn’t” moments. In the meantime, I’d love hear your suggestions for self-compassion.
Image Credit: Photo by Nina Matthews Photography via Flickr