Too Hard on Yourself and Want to Change That? This May Be Holding You Back.

It just hit me that I am way too hard on myself.

I mean, really hit me. People say that to women all the time and I have heard it of course. “We are so hard on ourselves.” “We need to stop expecting perfecting out of ourselves as a prerequisite for self-love and self-acceptance.”

But do we really believe it when we say it?

It’s okay if we don’t. It can sometimes take our habits and feelings a while to catch up to our intentions.

Maybe we subconsciously say things like “yeah, I know OTHER people are too hard on themselves. But surely that doesn’t apply to me. Surely on some level I deserve to be hard on myself because I am not perfect.”

Wait, what?! You mean, I have the belief that I am only worthy of love (self- or otherwise) if I am perfect? My rational self just heard that and thinks it sounds pretty fucked up. And yet, I suspect many of us do it.

I have made great strides in accepting that my body is worthy of respect and care and acceptance, no matter what….and I still struggle with transferring that respect and care and acceptance to the non-physical part of myself. I still engage in negative self-talk about my productivity and how well I use my resources (both time and money). “I should do more productive things with my time than scrolling on facebook and reading articles on my phone. I shouldn’t spend money on take-out, and should almost always cook at home. Why don’t I have better willpower when it comes to my time and money?  Why can’t I get it together enough to clean my house? It’s a good thing I only work part-time because I clearly am barely holding it together, logistically speaking. For that matter, why don’t I get it together enough to go back to working full time? Then we’d have more money. Why don’t I do more educational and creative activities with my kid?” Etc.

And yet, the whole time I had been subconsciously beating myself up for being an imperfect mother, wife, housekeeper, and employee…I haven’t fully appreciated myself for something I do well: being a pretty darn good household manager.

Being the part-time earner in a two income household comes with plenty of responsibility I haven’t been giving myself enough credit for. My husband and I share many responsibilities to some degree. But since my husband holds the full-time job with benefits, and I hold a part-time job with an extremely flexible boss, I am the default person to handle things like leaving work to pick up a sick child, going in late to take an injured pet to the vet, scheduling appointments and running errands. I am the manager of my family’s activity schedule, medical care, nourishment,  spending, and transportation. I don’t have sole responsibility for all these things, but I generally do most of the decision making in these areas. I’ve been married for 7 years now, and in our house, this division of labor seems to work. I have high managerial ability but am continually working to develop my patience for tedious, everyday tasks. My husband, on the other hand, is patient and can get the tedious shit done without complaint, but gets quickly overwhelmed managing multiple areas and doesn’t multitask efficiently.

So, this week I am fulfilling this role very well. Two days ago we traveled to my in-laws home, two hours away, to help out while my mother-in-law is transitioned to hospice care for the end stages of cancer. She may have weeks or days left earthside. Likely no more than four weeks. When my father-in-law called earlier in the week to confirm that he’d like my husband to come down the next day to help, I already knew it was a likely possibility. And I knew I wanted to come too. I knew this could possibly be the last time I saw my mother-in-law alive.  And I knew we could help. So rather than wait until the next day to drive down, I asked if it would help my FIL if we arrived later that day. He said it would, because then he could make some appointments for early the following morning before the nurse arrived. My MIL needs round the clock care and he hadn’t been able to leave the house at all.

So I kicked into management high-gear. Called my husband at work to ask how early he could get permission to leave. Told him it couldn’t hurt to ask for the next few days off, just in case. Called my friend to arrange feeding my cat. Let a neighbor know we’d be gone. Called my boss to get permission to work remotely if/when I could. Stopped at the bank, my office, my friend’s house to drop off a key. Packed up our stuff. My kid knew something was up and was climbing up my butt demanding attention the whole time. I felt nervous and panicky until we left, but once we got out the door I was fine.

So we arrived early and my FIL was able to make funeral arrangements, go grocery shopping, and do some yard work. We are helping him move my MIL when needed, and feed her and keep her company. We are there for support so he doesn’t have to bear dealing with hospice nurses and funeral directors on his own.  We got her to eat and drink more than she has been able to do in a while. My FIL is in excellent health for a person his age, but it is still a lot for one person to do alone.

So tonight I am lying awake, planning all the logistics out in my head of what would need to happen in order for my husband and I to be able to help out more during my mother-in-law’s last days.  Since they live two hours away, it would pose a degree of logistical and financial hardship for us to help them out. And yet I haven’t wanted to do anything more in a long time. My in-laws have always been so good to our family, and we love them and I know that if we help them, we won’t regret it. My husband and I may take turns staying with them if they will accept the help. So schedules need to be coordinated: my work, my husband’s work, babysitting, pet sitting. Procuring another carseat. FMLA forms. Rescheduling appointments. Making sure I get some swimming and lifting in so I can keep my pain levels down and every day function up.I know full well that none of this stuff is gonna get worked out at 1 am, but still everything is running through my mind and I’m having trouble getting to sleep. Long before any of this has even occurred to my husband, I’m sure.

And as I am lying awake it hits me….I do NOT deserve to talk down to myself because I am imperfect. I may be imperfect, but I do some things really well. I’m a damn good house manager. Not a perfect manager who always uses her resources perfectly. But a competent one, who juggles multiple priorities well: what to do myself, when to delegate or ask for help, and what to let slide, based on my family’s priorities and resources (time, money, energy, physical and mental strengths and weaknesses).

It is easy to see what is going wrong more prominently than what is going right. But if I had an employee who was doing so many things right, and all I did was point out their weaknesses day in and day out…..well, I would not be helping that employee thrive. So, I need to stop doing that to myself. I need to spend less time fixating on the ways in which my performance is imperfect, and more time appreciating my strengths. Just like I have learned to do for my husband. Just like I have learned to do for my physical self. Just like I have somehow always known how to do for my son.

When I say “don’t be so hard on yourself,” it applies to me, too. Yes, really. Yes, it is okay to appreciate my strengths. Yes, it is okay to focus less attention on improving on my weaknesses. Yes, it is still okay to appreciate my strengths while knowing I am imperfect. 

And that applies to you, too. Yes, it is okay to appreciate your strengths. If you are like me and focus a lot of attention on your weaknesses, and it isn’t helping you thrive….yes, it is okay to focus less attention on improving your weaknesses. Yes, it is still okay to appreciate your strengths while knowing you are imperfect.

Yes, yes, yes.

Now, I wonder what would happen if I swiped some of my MIL’s morphine to get some sleep….

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