If there’s one thing I’ve become most aware of over the past few months, it’s that many of us are reflecting and asking ourselves, “What is it that really matters in my life? And how can I be more true to myself?” For many, now is a turning point in life.
Some of my clients have started projects or taken up interests they’ve been toying with for years. Ignoring their perceived lack of readiness, they’re taking steps toward their long-held dreams, big and small. One client is dabbling in watercolour painting and another has accepted her job loss as the opportunity to start the business she’s imagined for years. Another is exploring a side-project he has a deep personal connection with, and several are writing books.
This time is a crossroads for all of us and an opportunity to review our life choices. While you might not be able to change your outer world immediately, you can certainly begin by looking at the thoughts, behaviours and habits that are currently defining you and consider how you can be more supportive of your true self.
Your relationship with yourself
Over the next few days, tune in and catch the way you speak to yourself. Pay particular attention in the moments after making a mistake or feeling inadequate in some way and listen as you start thinking about your dreams. What do you notice? Are you kind in your self-talk or are you more inclined to self-criticism?
Offer yourself compassion
Consider this a time where you will offer yourself a greater degree of compassion, support and kindness.
One easy way to do this is to remember that within each of us is a younger, more vulnerable part of ourselves (you might think of this as your inner child). What would you say to the five-year-old version of you? She or he is the one who experiences vulnerability and is often in need of support. This younger part of you is also the most playful, imaginative and creative.
Speak kindly to yourself
Think about how you would talk to a child who was feeling scared and uncertain or who wanted to dream, explore and find adventure.
Come up with a few phrases that feel helpful and natural to you, such as:
“It’s ok to feel lonely/sad/worried right now. This has been an incredibly uncertain time.”
“Be creative and enjoy the process without fearing the outcome.”
When you notice and take care of the more vulnerable aspects of yourself, you’re not being self-indulgent but rather, you’re taking ownership of your need for support.
If you’re able to nurture your desire to explore, you may find you can move beyond some of your self-imposed boundaries, which will help to grow your confidence.
Your relationship with others
If you live with other people, you may have discovered that being together for long stretches of time can strain relationships.
Emotions are running high right now, so we need to be more mindful than ever in the way we interact.
Offer others compassion
As John Gottman says, it takes five positive interactions for each single negative interaction to keep a relationship happy and healthy. When we find ourselves slipping into the habit of turning away from our loved ones because of resentment or frustration, we can take small steps to recover our connection.
While it’s tempting to criticise or attack another person for their flaws, we need to also remember that every relationship is a dynamic between two imperfect people. As much as we might feel loathe to admit it, our own behaviour plays a part too.
While it’s reasonable (and in fact, essential) that you expect the people around you to treat you with fairness and kindness, this might also be a good time to bury the hatchet or forgive old wounds.
Keep your heart open
Forgiving people doesn’t mean condoning poor behaviour nor is it about reconciling with people you have wisely moved on from. It’s about recognising the burden of anger or resentment and choosing to let go for yourself. Forgiveness doesn’t need to involve interaction with the person you’re forgiving but you may find it helpful to create a ritual of some kind that helps you to release your old hurts.
If people in your life have been a bit erratic in their behaviour in recent times, consider how you can open your heart to their struggles. Are you able to offer greater empathy or feel more compassionate about their actions? At the same time, consider how you might have been shutting down or closing off connection with your own responses. What might you do or say in order to maintain a connection?