Sometimes it gets a little tricky to know if what you are doing is really self-loving or avoidance of something that will be good for you to face.
I recently went through a patch of overwhelm because I had too many projects on the go, too much work, demands from home and family and self… you know, modern life. Feeling overwhelmed made me look at some patterns I have of giving too much and of measuring my self-worth and loveability on whether I am valuable and useful to others. When I asked, “If I loved myself what would I choose now?” my truth answer was, “To try to learn otherwise”. I realised I almost never gave myself time to just be, so I gave myself permission to say no and to withdraw from my work and projects more and more and just take time to sloth about. It was exciting and scary and very challenging to do it. As I learned to do it more I felt good and satisfied. At times I felt confused and anxious while not doing anything and that led me to explore what fear-based beliefs were driving my need to be productive. It was good and helpful to me. I learned more about doing nothing and how I see myself and my value. I felt listened to and cared for by me – and this made me feel safe. Hooray!
Then it all changed.
I began to notice that this withdrawal was not making me feel good overall. The idea of it was nice, but I was feeling unfocused and restless and dissatisfied. Over and over I asked myself, “If I loved myself what would I choose now” – but the answers were foggy and didn’t hit the sweet spot of truth. I was not able to enjoy the time I was giving myself because my head was too busy trying to figure out how to fix these unhappy feelings.
I have learned that my head gets busy when I feel unsafe and am trying to find ways to get a situation under control. Why on earth though, was I feeling unsafe from giving myself much-needed time to relax and do nothing? The answer, ironically, was that I did not feel listened to properly. What? Are you kidding me? I was doing nothing BECAUSE I had listened to myself!
This listening to yourself thing can be as frustrating as raising children. You ask a child what she wants and she tells you an apple. You give her the apple and she is happy. The next day you give her an apple and she cries and shouts that you NEVER listen to her. Why? Because the apple was right for her yesterday but today she wants a banana.
We adults like to know what is going on. We want to know how to best survive. Most of us don’t really like change – change is not safe. I want to know that you like apples. I find that safe and reassuring. It takes a certain emotional fitness to be able to go with the flow and ask, “What fruit do you feel like today?” It forces me to live in an uncertain ever-changing world, and while that is the reality of our world, most of us like to make a little nest in which very little changes so that we can hold onto the illusion of safety and stability.
Our inner self is always like the child who is in tune with the currents of your mood, body and life circumstances. This means that, for us too, some days an apple will be just what we want, and other days it will be repulsive to us. That’s what happened for me with the time off. It was what I wanted initially but then I became attached to the idea of it – because I had decided and seen that it would ‘fix’ my unhappy situation. I forgot to be flexible enough and see that my situation had changed. So even though I did keep asking myself the question of what would be self-loving, my head would not let me answer it honestly. It was stuck to the notion that time off would be good for me. This left me feeling uncertain and lost because I couldn’t hear my truth. My truth is that in my busy-ness I had been busy with a big process and I had needed a break, but I had not needed to leave the process.
Sometimes things that are hard for us are also really good for us and while it may seem self-loving to choose something easier, at those times it is not. That’s why it didn’t feel good to me anymore to keep taking the pressure off myself after I had rested enough. All that busy-ness had come from self-loving choices I had made, things I had chosen to do. They challenge and stretch and even frighten me, but they take me to places that I delight in. I was taking that away from myself in choosing actions that APPEARED self-loving but were in fact avoidance of healthy challenge.
It’s tricky this self-love thing and it changes each moment – one minute an apple, the next minute a banana. That is why we need to check in again and again. You will always know if the answer you get is the truthful one when it brings with it a feeling of opening up, lifting, excitement, possibility, bigness… My answers were not giving me that feeling but my head was so convinced of its story that I couldn’t get to my truth. My choices were being made from my head, and while they seemed right, they didn’t feel good.
It’s counter-intuitive but after having the much-needed rest and appreciating being heard by my head, my heart wanted to go right back onto the playing field. My self-love was to be very busy and stretched – that’s what felt better. Who could have guessed that? What had confused me was that taking time to do nothing was initially really self-love because I listened to the fact that I was feeling overwhelmed and took action to help myself manage, but then it became an avoidance of something I was finding hard – learning to manage all those demands and balance it with my own self-care. At the point that it became avoidance it stopped feeling good.
Are you currently doing something ‘for’ yourself that might actually be fear-driven?