You Have to Be Your Own Team Captain (and Your Biggest Fan, Too)

Man with a map standing on top of the mountain, looking ahead.Life is relentless. There is work and/or school, bills, errands, and household repairs. There are family and friends (or are they taking a back seat to the to-do list?). What about spending time with your partner? Or even finding one in the first place? Just calling the bank or the credit card company to rectify an error usually means several minutes of wading through phone menus. What happened to the days when a friendly human voice would answer? And how are you going to pay off that credit card, anyway? For those among us who are raising even one child, you can multiply all these unremitting demands by a factor of two or three.

This is the curse of the modern Western lifestyle. The to-do list is endless, and it often comes with a sense of dread. Taking a break, or treating yourself to a purely frivolous activity, can seem impossible. This is one of the many plagues of our time, and it’s invisible unless you know where to look.

Meanwhile, as we watch television or glance across the gym floor, there always seems to be someone better looking than us. Or perhaps they’re more successful, have more money, get more dates, or win awards we don’t have a shot at. If we look at the “highlight reel” of their Facebook page, we might cringe at the comparison with our own lives.

If you also happen to have a history of developmental trauma, you’re a lot more likely to be set up for this vicious cycle. One important thing that tends to be missing is a sense of truly treasuring yourself. Yes, believe it or not, this deep sense of self-love is normal. It was supposed to have been implanted into you long ago, from your caregiver’s gaze, from their attunement to your needs, from their utter delight about your accomplishments—and from feeling a sense of safety with them. I’m not talking about narcissism—not at all. Rather, this is a quieter but deeper sense of feeling in your heart and your belly that you love yourself, that your contributions are valuable, that you matter. On the other hand, if your parents were ill, absent, addicted, or simply lacking this in themselves, it would be easy to imagine you could be running low in the self-worth department. This is not true in every case, of course. It often happens automatically because the core of the self is built in relationship with others, with the emotional and physical materials they give us.

Any combination of these circumstantial predicaments makes it easy to approach our self-improvement efforts with an attitude of self-reproach, if not self-contempt. Alternately, we might just slip into a pattern of self-neglect, with our own needs not even creating a blip on our radar.

If you were a sports team—say, a football or hockey team—and you had that approach, would you be winning many games?

Probably not, right?

In fact, your innate talents probably wouldn’t be able to shine through. Even the best quarterback in the nation can’t play at their highest level if they’re run down and demoralized.

So, I’ll ask you: How are your “team captain” skills?

When was the last time you really sat down with yourself and “talked” with those inner parts of yourself that are bearing the brunt of this load?

If you did this, what would they say?

Would they just cry?

It’s true the world has its share of unmotivated, lazy folks. I’m not addressing them here, however, because they don’t tend to be the people who come into my office (or, for that matter, who read articles like this one, about psychology and self-improvement). Please note there’s a substantial difference between lazy entitlement and being stuck due to freeze, overwhelm, or previous traumas. If you happened to receive the essentials of good self-esteem during childhood, or find ways to earn them back in adulthood, then the bulk of this article may not be for you—but it might be useful in giving your attitudes and self-care a once-over.

What I’m suggesting is you have to be your team captain, your best player, and your most enthusiastic fan base. And your coach, your trainer, and everything in between. And you have to believe in your team and what you’re doing: that you are worthy and you have a shot at some great things.

So. What if, just for a moment, you envisioned yourself as a team?

You would have different players. You’d have your physical body, which keeps you alive, carries you around, and does all the grunt work. You’d have your intellect, including whatever training you may have had. You’d have your emotional system, your memory bank, and your unconscious mind.

What I’m suggesting is you have to be your team captain, your best player, and your most enthusiastic fan base. And your coach, your trainer, and everything in between. And you have to believe in your team and what you’re doing: that you are worthy and you have a shot at some great things.

And you have to act accordingly. That means finding ways to take good care of each part of your “team” and not treating any of the members with contempt.

When was the last time you:

  • Scheduled that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off? (Or, if you don’t have access to health care, either applied for it or wrote a letter to your representatives to advocate for access to this essential service?)
  • Got a massage just because it feels good? Or swapped massages with a trusted friend? Or found a way to receive some other safe, consensual, and pleasant physical contact?
  • Hung out with a puppy or kitten, just adoring its soft, warm fur?
  • Took a nature break? Nature is supportive of our self-regulation processes, so long as it’s accessed in a safe manner.
  • Wrote down a list of the things you like about yourself? (Extra credit: Have a trusted friend read it and add some.)
  • Spent the afternoon drawing or reading something you enjoy?
  • Took some step, small or large, toward changing your life in a way that you’ve wanted to?

Here’s another twist: When you take the steps to help yourself to feel good and to shine, you are actually helping others, too. In considering this, you can think about how others affect you: Would you rather spend time around someone who is happy and relaxed or someone who is tense or sad? How does each of these experiences feel?

We are social creatures, and our nervous systems regulate themselves based on what the people around us are doing. That’s why most people soon feel tense after walking into the middle of a tense situation. It’s called coregulation and it’s caused by mirror neurons in our brains, which respond to others’ physical and emotional states. When we feel good, it creates a ripple effect because of the way our bodies coregulate. Additionally, we are more likely to have the emotional capacity to directly support and encourage others. This applies triple if you are raising children, because they are building their nervous systems within the relational field that you are providing. I think this is why the cycle of giving and receiving can be indistinguishable at times.

Are you ready to step up and be your best player, your most enthusiastic fan, and everything in between?

If not, would you be willing to imagine moving in that direction? To reach out for whatever you need to take the next step?

Reference:

Butler, E., & Randall, A. (2012, November 6). Emotional coregulation in close relationships. Emotion Review, 5(2). Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1754073912451630

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  • 2 comments
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  • diego

    diego

    March 22nd, 2018 at 2:29 PM

    I go out into nature every day and take my dog
    Some of the other questions… not so much

  • lenay

    lenay

    March 27th, 2018 at 6:39 PM

    good advice!

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