The thoughts that run through my mind about who I am and what I'm doing are often plagued by self-doubt, criticism and fear. My husband calls me his "little doer," but I feel as though I'm not doing enough or that I don't have what it takes to accomplish the big goals I have for my life.
As a young(er) woman, I remember being so fearless and confident in who I was and the path I was taking. However, as I've gotten older and seen the harsher realities of life, I've lost a lot of that confidence and fearlessness. It's in these moments of doubt and fear I remind myself that I must take one step at a time and be gracious toward myself.
To be gracious means to be courteous, kind and pleasant. From a Biblical standpoint, to be gracious is to show compassion, mercy, kindness and favor. It's easy to be gracious towards others, but I have to check my thoughts toward myself constantly: Am I being kind to myself? Am I showing compassion and mercy to myself? So often, I'm not. However, I've learned some tricks to handle those moments of self-criticism and become more gracious toward myself that I thought I'd share:
- Shut out all of the noise. Typically, I become the most critical of myself when I fall into the comparison trap (fueled by social media and digital media). I'll see successful women entrepreneurs growing their businesses or professional fitness models posing with perfect abs, and I'll start to doubt my self-worth and think things like, "I wish I could start and grow my own business," or "Wow, I am super fat and wish I had those abs." In these moments, I make a conscious effort to shut out the noise by putting down my phone or stepping away from the article I'm reading. There's a balance between setting goals and letting someone else's dream define your own. When we shut out the noise, avoid the comparison trap and focus on pursuing our own interests, we're more likely to achieve our goals and see our dreams take shape.
When I shut out the noise in my mind, I'm better able to hear God's direction for my life so that He can direct my steps. Even if you're not a Christian, getting quiet and peaceful provides opportunities for you to get clear about what you want and where you want to go. This is also a good time to get honest with yourself by asking questions like: Why am I feeling this way? Can I take steps to make positive changes? Am I letting someone else define my worth? By asking honest questions, you'll get honest answers that will help you begin to get to the root of the issue. (Also, for those goal-oriented readers - I found this cool article about starting a vision board, which I'm definitely going to try.)
- Take time to be thankful. In a world of "more, more, MORE," it's easy to get caught up in pursuing and wanting more and wanting it right now - in our relationships, in our careers, in our health and fitness, and in our finances. However, by always pursuing more, we miss out on the opportunities to really step back and look at how much we have and the challenges we've overcome to get where we are now.
Sometimes I think back to where I was just under three years ago: I had just moved halfway across the country to a super expensive area for a new boyfriend, I was living in what I affectionately called the "Hobbit Hole" (a small den without windows or a closet that I rented from a woman for $450/month) and making a fraction of what I make now at my current job while working 50+ hours per week. Fast forward to today and I have a great job that pays well and has better work/life balance, I'm living in a (and moving to another) really great apartment, I'm married to my best friend in the whole world and even though I've definitely gained a few pounds in the past few years, I'm stronger and know a lot more about fitness than I ever had before. The point of this long diatribe is to remind all of us that it's important to take moments to be thankful for the place you are in life, even if it's a tough spot because it's likely a growing season.
- Show love to yourself. In moments when you're overcome by insecurity or self-doubt, take a moment (or an hour or more) to show yourself some love. For me, this includes going to a yoga class, getting a pedicure, making a healthy choice for my body, writing "You are [insert positive adjective]" on my hand, giving myself a compliment or reading favorite and relevant Bible verses.
- Reach out to a friend. Sometimes the above things don't quite do it for me, so I'll reach out to a friend or my husband to give me a reality check by sharing how I'm feeling and that I need a boost. Thankfully, I have amazing people in my life and they're always on board with helping me get out of a rut.
- Run. Ok, I know not everyone likes running (in fact, most people hate it), but there is nothing that clears my mind better than a good run. For some reason, running is the most therapeutic form of exercise for me - even more so than yoga. I'm able to lace up my shoes and leave all my frustrations on the trail. I usually return with a lighter heart and more self-love because I did something great for my mind and my body. Running may not have this affect on you, but find your own outlet - it might be another type of exercise, dancing, drawing, painting, cooking or cleaning.
Learning how to cope with self-doubt, criticism and fear is a great skill to master. By being more gracious towards ourselves, we give ourselves the room we need to grow. Also, don't forget to take things one day at a time - big dreams and goals take time to achieve and while you're pursuing them, just stay faithful and keep moving forward.