We have been taught to believe that being hard on ourselves, pushing ourselves and beating ourselves up is the way to reach our potential: a way to find happiness by being someone we can be happy with, the ‘best’ version of ourselves.
Let me just repeat that logic for you: the way to love myself and be happy in the future, is to dislike and be mean to myself now.
‘Now’ is actually the only time we have. How are we going to teach ourselves to love ourselves and feel worthy and good enough in the imagined future, if our only behaviour right now is the opposite? When do we start practising this self-love we hear is quite helpful to our well being?
We think if we don’t push or punish ourselves for ‘less than’ behaviour (I should have known better), we will not learn and be destined to continue with the same mistakes. That can even work to some degree, but it doesn’t feel at all good or do anything to increase your sense of self-worth outside of any external validation or achievement you may have pushed yourself to get.
If it hasn’t worked so far, may I suggest a gentler, more compassionate alternative?
“I messed up. I should have known better and done better.”
Yup. Only the survival part of your brain for some reason felt so threatened it hijacked your system and did whatever it thought it needed to protect you.
So, it happened. Now you have some perspective. Instead of hating the part of you that thought it was saving your life, or in some way keeping you safe, try being kind and curiously asking, what did you think was so awful about the alternative that you had to protect me from it?
Maybe you put up with the awful partner because you learned it was better than being alone (because you’d learned you were unlovable).
Maybe you took the bait and started an argument you’ve had a million times before because that person said something that reminded you just how useless you are (not true but learned).
It happened. Take full responsibility for it. Be compassionate with yourself – you did the best you could. If you’d have been able to do better, do you not think you would have?! Now what? Can you offer yourself some compassion and forgive yourself so you can practice what you hope to achieve in the ‘future’?
Self-worth and self-love is ONLY available to you in the present moment. Right now.