One of the biggest gifts you can give yourself is acceptance of ‘what is’. Acceptance of self, life on its terms and acceptance of others are great practices that bring much peace to our daily lives. Knowing and accepting oneself (strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc.) is key to achieving a sense of well-being. Self-Knowledge is EVERYTHING. Take an honest look at who you are, how you feel, and why. Following are some self-care tips to get to know yourself better.
TIP # 1: Think and Write About Who You Are
Take some time to explore who you are by answering these journal prompts on paper. Write it down, look at it, and notice how it feels when you write it. Then work to accept your answers and resist the urge to get going on any solutions to “fix” yourself or make a plan for change. Just be curious about what answers come to mind, and don’t judge the answers or yourself (in this moment).
- My purpose in life is. . .
- My greatest accomplishment in life to date is. . .
- I am most proud of. . .
- The thing I like most about myself is. . .
- My greatest failure and what I learned from it is. . .
- I want to work on improving. . .
TIP # 2: Identify and Accept your Feelings
NOTICE (don’t change or try to fix) your feelings by identifying them through some brief journaling. Don’t make it fancy, just jot down brief answers. I like “bullet point journaling” – it’s like a journaling list, very informal. Right now, in this moment I feel… (write an exhaustive list of feelings, positive and negative with brief explanations). It should look something like this:
- Sad – My dog is really sick and I think he is going to die. He is my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him.
- Frustrated – I don’t know where to take my career. I thought I knew what I wanted and now I’m as confused as ever.
- Encouraged – I am making progress toward paying off my student loans. It feels like I will never get them paid off and I want to give up at times, but the truth is that I think I can do it.
- Resentful – People seem to take advantage of me and I am starting to really feel negative toward people I care about. Why does this keep happening to me?
- Loved – my girlfriend is great, she is loyal, and accepts me just as I am.
Notice these feelings, feel them as you write, and then ‘let them go’, like watching clouds pass. Feelings are to notice, experience, and let pass. Feelings always pass if we allow them to. We tend to be afraid of our feelings and often think we need to do something to change the powerful and negative ones. But the truth is, the more we try to fix or change them, the more we remain stuck. Work on accepting them for what they are and letting them pass.
TIP # 3: Set Healthy Boundaries
I do boundary work with most of my clients at some point. When they catch on and work at it, they report increased self-confidence, clarity in who they are and what is important to them, improved relationships, decreased negative feelings – an overall improved sense of well-being. I often hear things like, “How have I missed this? It makes me feel so much better. This seems so simple but it’s sort of hard. Everyone should learn this.”
There are three basic kinds of boundaries: emotional, physical, and intellectual. We will focus on emotional boundaries here.
A common complaint I hear from clients is their frustration with having a hard time saying “no”. They find themselves over committed, under appreciated, feeling taken advantage of, and resentful toward people who are important to them.
If you find yourself thinking, “Why do people always seem to take advantage of me? People just expect me to do things for them and don’t even seem to appreciate it. I am getting sick and tired of people and what they want me to do. I can’t help myself though, because it’s just who I am, I just want people to do some things for me.” These are all statements I hear from people who could use a large dose of boundary work in this area.
Why don’t we set healthy boundaries?
- Fear – fear of being rejected or abandoned. Fear of conflict.
- We weren’t taught healthy boundaries.
- Safety Concerns (People who are in abusive relationships can’t set healthy boundaries because of the abuse. If you have concerns for your safety, this tip is not for you. Get professional help)
First, identify someone who you know respects you and your right to set boundaries. Decide on something to say “no” to. Something you don’t really want to do (eg., volunteer for another committee). Practice saying “no” with a brief explanation, don’t apologize, say it with respect and confidence. For example, “I think I am going to pass this time around, it is not going to work with my schedule and my other commitments. Thank you for thinking of me!” Period. Don’t say any more words. The more explanation we give, the more it weakens the boundary and gives the message that our boundary might be negotiable.
Next is practice tolerating other people’s discomfort, disappointment, or bids for you to change your mind. Truth = most people don’t like it when we set boundaries, especially when the answer is “no”, and when they aren’t used to us setting boundaries. Hold your ground, thank them again for valuing you enough to ask you, and wish them well. Then try to gently change the topic to something unrelated by asking a question about them or their lives. Part of boundary work is trusting that others can handle disappointment and other feelings they may have. Their feelings are not your job. Your job is to be respectful, direct, firm, and friendly. Stay out of their feelings about your “no”, let them work that out!
Final Words on Self Care
Just know that you have the right and responsibility to tend to taking care of yourself. If you don’t, who will? That’s right, NO ONE! There are numerous ways to treat yourself with respect and kindness. Along with your new diet and workout routine for 2018, add in some emotional self-care for good measure. You are what you think!