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Self-love, self-care, self-help, self-improvement, it’s the new hot thing.
Everywhere we look there are courses and coaches and influencers popping up to capitalize on our desires to feel great, or good, or even just a little bit better than we feel now.
At the core of all of this marketing is the hook that gets us to reach for our credit cards again and again and again—that we are the ones holding ourselves back, that we just need to get out of our own way, bust through our blocks, and quit self-sabotaging once. And. For. All.
It’s a pain point and it sells—partly because it’s true—but as a coach, writer, content creator (and yes, also marketer of products and services that could fall under the banner of all the things I mentioned above), I also want to call bullsh*t on the myths and sales tactics that (in my experience) have us operating from a place where we believe there is something fundamentally wrong with us that we need to eradicate in order to be “healed.” And with the expectation that once said unhealthy self-sabotage strategies have been banished, we’ll never struggle with the same hurdles again.
Why can I write about this? (Other than I want to share something that I’m feeling big feelings about.)
Because every single week I sit with clients who struggle with this idea and the underlying beliefs that there is that one “thing” wrong with them that they need to discover and overcome no matter how much struggle and money it costs them. They feel disconnected, disempowered, are full of self-doubt, and question their every thought, word, and deed. Visualize this as you versus yourself head-on, instead of walking beside oneself.
Oh yeah—and because it’s something I struggled with (and still experience) in my own life every single day.
Exploring this further, I learned how to seek support for my healing from a place of empowerment and self-compassion instead of from a place of lack, and it is from that place that I, in turn, offer my support to others.
Here are my invitations (and some little-known fine print that the self-help gurus don’t always tell us about):
Imagine that all the things we were feeling and doing (or not doing) and having a hard time with were actually showing us exactly what we need to feel and think and do, instead of what we need to eliminate.
Things that we do to self-sabotage—the list is long:
Procrastinate (maybe you’re being invited to seek work that lights you up), overspend (is there an area of your life where you are feeling unseen or undernourished?), show up late (not feeling deserving of the success you say you want), push people away (but you really want to be seen), say no to things we want to say yes to (invitation to love our own vulnerability), say yes to things we want to say no to (invitation to create boundaries and internal safety), etc., etc., etc. Longer still is the list of ways that we berate ourselves for having these unhealthy habits and tendencies and the list of ways we feel alone and ashamed for being driven by them.
I think that this needs to stop. Here’s why: on some level, at some point in time, those “unhealthy habits” developed as strengths—some mechanism that we had within us that was employed to create some safety and security at a time when we needed it.
Remember from science class, learning how all life always seeks balance? Well, each of our beings is a beautiful and intricate ecosystem, each part integrated and connected to the next, jumping in to support or take over when there is a vulnerability in the system somewhere—always seeking to balance out imbalances in the way it knows how to do, based on thousands of years of survival programming. This is healthy. This is having our own back, not screwing ourselves over.
Except, when it does and that’s the kicker.
When it does start to make life messy, instead of going at our internal landscapes with an industrial-sized weedwacker, can we zoom out and look at the need that the “unhealthy” mechanism is fulfilling? What is it trying to protect us from? What is it afraid of? What other things could we do to support it (and ourselves) so that this survival mechanism feels safe enough to go back into hibernation? (Note that this is not the same thing as getting rid of it.)
As in nature, we are always changing and shifting and adjusting and ebbing and flowing through our own seasons. This means those strengths that jumped in to keep us going might just need a little help backing off now that the rest of us is feeling better and ready to reach buds into the world once again.
Our “unhealthy” self-sabotage habits do not need to be eliminated or shamed into suppression. We are each an ecosystem of carefully and magically balanced resources.
Our mind, body, spirit, gifts, pains, needs, and all of our emotions have a place and a purpose here in our experience. Their expressions and needs will shift and change just as the seasons do, but know that there will always be seasons and there will always be a force working within us that marches at the pace of that most ancient and natural cycle.
The invitation, when you are spinning or disconnected or struggling with decisions or jumping on thought trains to Timbuktu, is to pause and breathe and move and notice and watch each piece of who you are, gently and safely come back to the peace and the power they possess when all of you is working together.
The invitation is to get back into the body. To get closer to the parts of ourselves that we thought we wanted to get rid of. To look underneath and behind all the rocks and shadows and wild places we have feared or even loathed, and at least let them know they are not alone, that we will not rip them out of their home and throw them out into the cold.
The invitation is not to be the judge, jury, and executioner of our landscape, but instead, be the gardener of it.
To know and respect ourselves—all of ourselves—intimately and courageously and lovingly. To go in gently, to go in with curiosity, to go in and invite all of our parts to the conversation, and to hear, see, and understand each of their stories.
The fact is, they all show up anyway. We can either keep pulling them out, or make space for them to breathe.