We hear the advice “don’t be so hard on yourself,” or something like it, all the time. I hear it, I nod to it, and I even logically agree with it. But emotionally? I always find it hard to actually feel it. I find it hard to forgive myself at the moment and to truly let the weight of my shame or blame or fear go.
Because I know I am not being fair to myself by carrying these burdens that are not my fault and not in my control. I know that I am not being kind to myself by holding myself back and shackling myself to old beliefs that no longer speak to me. I know that I am almost always my worst enemy.
And I’ve been wondering lately about the disconnect between knowing something and actually doing something about it. Somewhere, for me, those dots don’t connect. The tools are there. The lessons are there. The resources are there. But for some reason, I choose not to go there.
When I’m spiraling, the last thing I want to do is focus on self-compassion. When I’m afraid, my reaction is to run with my eyes closed rather than look for the lit exit. When I’m anxious, I oddly avoid all of the things that I know would make me feel calmer and more at ease.
So what is it, then, that’s stopping me?
Well, I’ve come to realize that I sometimes try to rush through my emotions, which keeps me stuck. I tread through the mud of my own doubt rather than looking in new directions to see the ways out. I attempt to escape by barreling through when all I really need is to stop to take a deep breath. And that’s when I realized the answer I need lives in the pause.
And I don’t mean the “pause” we’ve heard in all of 2020 about slowing down and going easy and taking more rest and indulging in self-care. While all of those are great, the pause I’m talking about is something else. This pause is the nanosecond opportunity we have between doubt and serenity.
I’ve come to see that the dot that isn’t connecting is the pause that I am not taking between what triggers me and what can relieve me. That moment of opportunity exists to ask myself questions like: Is this story I’m telling myself true? Is this narrative out of my control? Can I let this go, even if it’s just for today or just for this moment?
And this may not always work, but sometimes it does. Because it’s all about not letting myself continue down the routine path on autopilot, anxious and mechanically self-sabotaging. In just that nanosecond pause, I give myself the chance to turn off the autopilot. To deal with what’s in front of me or to let it go entirely.
The pause doesn’t mean jump into a yoga class or take a bath (even though I love both). The pause is truly just the chance to play devil’s advocate with your negativity. To question your own fears. To test what you know against what you feel. And in that pause, that’s where you can find your power.
Because by rushing through our feelings and moving impulsivity with our worries, we aren’t using our power. We’re giving up our power, and the pause allows us to take it back by reflecting and resetting. It gives us a moment to actually assess what’s in front of us and to finally connect the dots.
The pause is the hardest part, and maybe that’s the secret to not being hard on yourself.