How You Motivate Yourself Matters
by Bethany Joy
Experience teaches our brains to avoid pain. Habits and patterns can be hard to break because we think “new” means pain. Listen to episode 5 of The Creativity Cure Podcast to hear how if you’ve spent your life criticizing and bullying yourself, you may think you won’t succeed if you don’t do that. The more you think about past mistakes, the more you demand perfection, and the more you feel like a problem, the more you want to stay safe. If you’re always looking for the next mistake or failure, you’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy through your own frequency bias. It’s important to be safe if you’re going to be creative. To be safe you need the grace to make mistakes and grow so you can have a growth mindset. The way you motivate yourself matters. How you speak to yourself becomes how you speak to others and for little ones around you, it becomes how they may motivate themselves in the future. There’s hope for change. Embrace self-compassion and here are practical ways to do that!
Changing habits takes time. According to one blog, self-compassion brings up old hurts. I found it hard to break my habit of excessive self-criticism because I was so used to it. If you have used self-criticism as a motivator for years, changing it will feel like a failure. Expect some feelings and be patient. Don’t let your emotions define you. Move through them. If you’re like me, you ignore, dismiss, or pretend emotions don’t exist. Moving through an emotion requires acknowledgment. Write, talk, or think about it. Give yourself a moment to acknowledge your feelings. There’s no need to produce an action like getting over a situation. If you acknowledge your feelings, your brain will move forward rather than slowly lose control of them as you avoid them. Initially, it can feel vulnerable because if you feel embarrassed about something someone pointed out to you, you’re admitting it affected you. No matter how you acknowledge a feeling, it goes somewhere. Suppress it and it may come back as anger or anxiety. You might lie to yourself about it, but your brain knows, so you might find yourself exhausted by pretending. By dismissing emotions, you won’t get rid of them, they’ll come out. It usually hurts people you don’t want. Do you ever get upset over small things? It could be something stupid like someone parking in your space. It’s usually dismissed emotions that cause that blow-up. That feeling didn’t go away! Put your feelings in writing and read them. It’s what I do when my body reacts to anxiety. It was so easy for me to feel anxious that I lost touch with my body and my emotions, so I stopped noticing how I felt. That’s why I pay attention when my shoulders scrunch up, my breathing gets fast, or my stomach hurts. Writing helps me see my thoughts in context, and then they’re not in my head anymore. Writing things down makes them less scary. It’s a great habit to get into. We all feel different emotions. Some of us feel a lot, others don’t. Healthier people are in control of their actions, no matter what. You’ll notice I didn’t say emotions. Feelings are like a map, telling us about ourselves, but we can’t always control them. What matters is what we do with them.
Another habit I learned from The Joy Switch is to practice joy. Bring back memories of fun times. Take a look at the pictures and reminisce about the day. Take a minute to think about what you’re grateful for. Set a timer for ten minutes and think about 10 things you’re grateful for. Don’t ruminate on upsetting failures or mistakes. Ruminating is when you can’t stop thinking about how you failed, embarrassed yourself, or got angry. You can ruminate to control a problem you think you can’t solve or think you’ll be able to solve it if you think long enough. It can also be triggered by trauma. When you externalize it, however, consider what it means. Imagine if your friend failed to show up for your birthday after promising to do so. There was a genuine error and they apologized profusely. You keep bringing it up every chance you get, replaying it over and over out loud and telling everyone you know what a big mistake they made bringing it up. Is that person someone you’d want as a friend? It’s what happens when you do that to yourself. You’re human, so you’re going to make mistakes or make bad choices. It’s impossible to be perfect. As soon as you set a standard to never experience a situation with uncontrollable elements, you set yourself up to fail. If you can’t always control your thoughts, this technique says to make them a person and say hey, I’ll listen to you later but right now I’m enjoying breakfast, so set it aside. Trying to do simple tasks with the constant reminder of how you messed up in the background is exhausting. It’s okay to set that aside for 30 seconds. It’s not necessary to punish yourself constantly. Let your mind wander to things you enjoy. It may take some practice but change is possible. Think about that adventure with your friend. Think about a dream vacation or a good meal. When your brain isn’t trying to avoid pain, it can embrace the future. Being compassionate allows you to believe you can accomplish those goals, no matter how imperfect you are. Making mistakes is okay and you’ll do it. As a result, you don’t begin to rely on your body’s self-defense mechanisms (fight, flight, freeze).
Let’s talk about boundaries next. Being compassionate towards yourself means understanding you’re in control. You’re not responsible for anyone’s feelings or actions. In reality, you can’t force anyone to do anything. Boundaries simply mean recognizing where you end and someone else begins. Having boundaries keeps us safe and lets us enjoy our families. There’s a good chance you already have boundaries, but don’t know what they are. Knowing when someone crosses them is a sure sign you have them. No matter what it is, whether it is unsolicited advice, rude comments, or oversharing when you don’t want to, setting and recognizing boundaries is compassion.
Take care of yourself.
In addition to taking care of your mind, your body should be taken care of as well. There is a lot of strain and stress on our bodies. Both the good and the bad. It is crucial to take time to care for your body. If you have been ignoring your body, it may take time to get back into it. Pay attention to hunger, thirst, tiredness, and tension. Take care of yourself, whether it’s for a few minutes a day or for an hour each week. Give it a try! It’s becoming clear to me that my body yells in other ways when I ignore it. The physical or emotional stress forces me to rest. Getting help is never too late, even if you’ve never exercised or struggled to stay active. Consider taking one small step toward improving your diet or sleep if you’re not getting enough. We need you. Your friends and family need you. It is your responsibility to take care of yourself because no one else can understand what you need. You should seek help if you have consistently struggled in any area. Search for free groups online or see what your insurance covers. Some of us say we’ll figure it out later, but if it’s been 5 years, it’s time to admit you’re not an expert. Pain shows us what we need to pay attention to before it’s too late. So please pay attention and show compassion for your body.
Last but not least, soul care. For me, it’s prayer, church community, and Bible study. Peace for me comes from knowing God is in control and knows me. Casting my cares on Jesus is what I do when I don’t have compassion for myself or anyone else. Helping others keeps me grounded and reminds me that I’m not alone, by caring, I’m not just focusing on my problems. It’s good to get perspective when you feel like what you’re going through is all encompassing.
It’s time to change the way we motivate ourselves. Think about what care you need and if you don’t know, start by believing you can be kind to yourself. When you do that, your brain starts looking for solutions instead of your next mistake!
Thank you for checking out my blog! You can listen to the podcast on Apple, Spotify, and wherever you listen to podcasts. Watch me on YouTube as well by searching for The Creativity Cure. Let’s continue the conversation by joining Seen & Celebrated my weekly Newsletter where I share stories of women doing great things in Maryland. Subscribe for free below and access all of the stories.
I hope these tips are helpful, but I am only one person, so let me know what has worked for you! I can be reached here or via email at email@example.com. Interested in collaborating on something creative? Commission a portrait! The booking period for 2023 is now open.