Monthly Archives: May 2020

Are You Still Working on Yourself?

Working on car

Jill came to our first coaching session saying that she’s been “working on herself” for twenty years but still feels she has more work to do.

Every time I hear that phrase, “working on myself,” I visualize a car with the hood up and someone bent over the engine with a wrench. Frankly, it makes me cringe.

Like many women I know, Jill’s taken workshops, trainings, and courses with top self-help experts–the best out there. Meditation, spiritual direction, success training, more productivity, self-compassion, better thinking, building confidence–she’s done them all.

She even saw a therapist to see if she was depressed. The therapist told her she wasn’t and sent her away.

“So what’s the problem?” I asked.

“I just don’t ever feel good about myself,” she said. “I’m a phony and a quitter. I procrastinate. I don’t use the tools I learn. I keep trying, taking courses, listening to podcasts, but I think I’m just not good enough.”

“Jill, what if the real issue is your self-attack? You’re believing what you’re telling yourself–that something is wrong with you that needs work. What if you don’t need more confidence or self-compassion or productivity? What if the key to feeling good about yourself is accepting yourself right now, this minute, just exactly as you are?”

This is a novel concept for Jill and for many of the women I talk to. It’s as if there is a far-off destination, the land of “I’m fixed and don’t need to work on myself any more.” It’s always a faraway destination, miles from where they are.

But here’s the truth: We have good days and bad days, times we screw up and times we succeed. Sometimes we’re articulate and confident, sometimes we’re withdrawn and awkward. Sometimes we’re kind and sometimes we’re not, especially to ourselves.

In short, we’re human.

When we listen to the inner voice that attacks us, we forget our victories, our successes, and our kindnesses. We don’t remember our loving acts towards others and we can’t see the beauty that surrounds us.

The biggest problem Jill and many other bright, competent women share is believing the inner voice that tells them they’re not good enough exactly as they are

Consider these words from “Wild Geese,” by Mary Oliver:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

We’re all magnificent and messy, fabulous and awkward, deeply spiritual and disappointingly profane. And we don’t have to crawl on bruised and bloodied knees across a desert, futilely trying to be so good.

So how about getting your nose out of the engine of your heart and soul and gently lowering the hood. Walk away from the idea that you need to be fixed, tinkered with, worked on.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Can you quiet and listen to its soft whispers?

On the Pandemic Roller Coaster?

Photo by blueberry Maki on Unsplash

Photo by blueberry Maki on Unsplash

On the Pandemic roller coaster? One day you’re fine, getting stuff done, maybe even cheerful. The next day, anxious, exhausted, overeating, hitting the wine a little too early.

It seems to be a natural part of our human response to the pandemic, the uncertainty, and the many large and small losses that have come with it. Most everyone I’ve talked to is familiar with the roller coaster—we feel great one day and anxious the next.

But some are taking it a step further. I shouldn’t worry so much. I shouldn’t feel so anxious. I should be more grateful because I have it so much better than others.

I should. I shouldn’t. I should. I shouldn’t.

That’s the sound of self-attack. That’s the scolding inner voice that makes us wrong no matter what. We should feel better, do better, be better.

That voice only makes us feel worse. And, like many of our unhelpful patterns, it’s out in full force now.

The truth is this. We feel the way we feel. None of us wakes up and decides to spoil our days with worry and stress. We don’t choose to worry. We don’t choose stress. We’re coping with unprecedented uncertainty and isolation. We’ve never been through a time like this.

Why wouldn’t we be up and down?

That’s not to say there aren’t ways to feel better—we can question our thinking, we can feel our feelings all the way through, we can reach out for help, talk to a trusted confidant, connect with like-minded friends, go for a walk outdoors if it’s safe. We can meditate, exercise, dance, either alone or in a virtual class. There’s a lot we can do to help with the roller coaster.

But making ourselves wrong for our feelings only makes us feel worse. Often much worse. It’s a habit that many of us have had since childhood. And it can add a thick layer of misery on top of whatever else we’re feeling.

So instead of making yourself wrong for having feelings, how about welcoming them? Let them come whisper their stories to you. Open your heart and mind to hear their gifts. Let them dance inside you until they melt away.

Sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but just try it. You might just be able to slow the roller coaster enough to get off it for a while.

And . . .

Join me for a support call, Inner Self-Care in Uncertain Times,  on Zoom, Fridays at 1:00 pm Eastern/10:00 am Pacific.

If you’re are on my email list, you’ve gotten the Zoom link. If you’d like to be added to the list, please send a request to support@terrydemeo.com.

Come whether you’ve got this, or whether you don’t. Whether you are stable or whether you are freaking out. You can come and participate, or hang out quietly and lurk. Or simply come out of a desire to connect. I’ll do some coaching, you’ll have a safe space to talk about your feelings, and we even manage to laugh.