Feeling stuck is hard. You want to move forward, but you can’t find the motivation to change. Or perhaps you don’t know how to change! Even in therapy, the very place you expect to see growth, you end up spinning your wheels. Nothing seems to be working, and you begin to wonder how you will ever make progress.
What do you say to yourself when you are mired in uncertainty and disappointment? Do you call yourself a failure, stupid, or worthless? Do you question the value of your dreams or life in general? Or do you offer yourself patience and kindness?
When you feel stuck in life, how you treat yourself makes all the difference. Think about how you would talk to someone who struggles to make change. In particular, think about how you might talk to a hurt child. My hope is you would offer comfort and encouragement rather than harsh criticism.
This is the key to getting unstuck: getting compassionate. With yourself!
Recognize the Impact of Negative Self-Talk
If you already feel discouraged, imagine how defeated you will feel if you continue to beat yourself up. You probably have a voice inside your head that reminds you of every mistake you’ve made and how much you should have done by now. Let’s call that voice your inner critic. It bullies you into believing you’re incompetent or pathetic and keeps you from seeing yourself as capable and worthwhile. It has a very narrow outlook on you and your life. It sees things in extremes—everything is black and white, good or bad, perfect or awful. Your inner critic’s perspectives tend to be unrealistic and inaccurate versions of the truth. If you continue to listen to this voice, you will stay stuck.
Stop Punishing Yourself
When you buy into your inner critic’s lies, you choose to believe you don’t deserve love and respect. Naturally, you begin to act on this belief by choosing not to take care of yourself. At best, you stop eating healthy foods, exercising, and spending time with friends. At worst, you indulge in alcohol, drugs, or risky sexual behaviors. You punish yourself for not being what your inner critic demands you to be. You may begin to experience depression and anxiety, which have a tendency to feed into your inner critic’s belief system, which can lead to more of these self-destructive behaviors. You must stop the cycle.
Stopping the cycle of self-abuse and getting unstuck relies on your willingness to be kind, loving, and patient with yourself. Often the reasons you have not moved forward are buried beneath a host of unreasonable expectations. The more you push yourself and feed into your inner critic’s way of thinking, the less likely you are to uncover the true obstacles to your growth. It’s like building a house of cards. The cards appear structured and stable; they create a promising image of strength and upward movement. Yet the smallest upset or lightest breeze will send it tumbling to the ground. You need materials and a foundation that will stand the test of time. I suggest you start with compassion.
You’ve already realized that berating yourself isn’t getting you where you want to go, nor is it revealing the next step on your journey. When you’re unsure of your next move, allow yourself to slow down. Don’t worry about that next step until you’ve offered yourself a little compassion. Tell yourself that you want to be on the path to healing but that something is getting in your way. Reassure yourself that once you understand what is keeping you stuck, you will do everything in your power to remove that obstacle and get your life back on track. Remind yourself that you are worthy of love, even if things aren’t progressing the way you want right now. Instill in yourself the belief that you are capable of the change you desire, and spend some time with this new belief. Repeat it. Let it offer you confidence and a sense of well-being. You’ve got this!
Take Care of Yourself
Sometimes, slowing down is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It might make you feel like you’re not doing enough right now. Notice the discomfort, but don’t react to it. Instead, treat yourself to a much-deserved act of self-care. Prepare a healthy meal. Exercise, dance, or move around in any way you like. Listen to your favorite music. Read a book. Go outside. Do something that feels good to you but isn’t harmful. Nourish yourself to nurture your motivation to keep going.
Once you ground yourself in the wisdom that you are capable of change and that you deserve a good life, you can begin doing the work that will lead you to your goals. Compassion is just the beginning, but it opens the door to a new way of experiencing yourself and the world. You can use your compassion as a safety net for when things go wrong and as a jumping-off point to propel you forward with confidence. Change is a process, and failure is a necessary part of it. Keeping your inner critic at bay will help you create reasonable expectations and view your mistakes as invaluable learning opportunities rather than character-defining flaws. You will view the world with curiosity and excitement rather than dread or fatalism. Treating yourself with loving kindness will allow you to cherish the small victories you might have missed along the way. You will gain the clarity to see how far you’ve come and the wisdom to recognize how limitless you really are.
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Shameela Keshavjee, MS, LMFT-S, Young Adult Issues Topic Expert Contributor
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