3 Self-Destructive Beliefs to Drop This Year
Here we are, a few weeks into a new year—for many, this is a time of hopeful changes and new habits.
Most “new year’s resolutions” come down to this: “I want to take better care of myself.” No one ever says, “My goal for this year is to ingest more harmful chemicals than ever before!” No, whether you’re going to eat more veggies, drink more water, find a counselor, spend more time with friends, earn a certification, improve your communication skills, spend less time on social media… you’ve chosen this goal because you know it’s good for you.
So, if you want to do something good for yourself, why is it so easy to quickly revert back to self-defeating behaviors? Because somewhere deep inside there’s a conflicting belief that’s getting in the way. You may not even be conscious of it, but you can’t change your behavior if you don’t change the mindset or belief system that created the behavior in the first place. Sure, you can change it temporarily, with great effort and determination. But eventually you’ll get tired and your auto-pilot will take over and you will revert to your old ways.
Before you get depressed, I have good news: You can change your auto-pilot. When you make adjustments to your belief system, you will automatically act accordingly. With that in mind, here are three viewpoints I commonly find among clients that obstruct their ability to prioritize their own well-being. Which of these ring true for you?
Self-Destructive Belief #1: There’s too much to do.
Taking care of yourself is not a task that you check off a list. You don’t nurture yourself so that you’ll have more energy to do more stuff! I mean, sure, you may end up having more energy or focus or motivation. But you’re more than just a resource that needs to be well-allocated and maintained. You’re a human being and therefore inherently valuable. Take care of yourself because you are worth taking care of.
Why does it seem more important to cultivate people or things outside yourself? I take care of my plants. I take care of the birds and squirrels that visit my yard (much to my husband’s chagrin). I take care of my family. You don’t have to force yourself to take care of things you care about, it happens naturally. That’s what it means to care.
What about you? Do you care about you?
When you change your inner dialog from “I should get more sleep/take a break from work/make new friends…” to “How can I invest in myself today?” you’ll find yourself making time for the things that build you up. Self-care is not something to add to your To Do List. It’s a way of life.
Self-Destructive Belief #2: Self-care should feel good.
Oooh, I’ve got bad news. While taking care of yourself can feel good and will, in the long run, lead to improved health and well-being, often the things that are best for you don’t actually feel great, especially in the beginning.
Self-care isn’t all bubble baths and sleeping in. Sometimes it’s overcoming social anxiety. Sometimes it’s saying “No.” Sometimes it’s ditching a toxic work environment. And those things can be HARD. Even bubble baths and sleeping in, while deliciously pleasurable, require creating and maintaining boundaries around your time. If you aren’t in the habit of carving out time for yourself… it’s hard at first. I can almost guarantee you that at least some aspect of taking good care of yourself will not feel awesome.
Every time you choose one thing, you reject something else. Every “yes” is also a “no.” Getting healthy—not just physically, but in all aspects of your work and personal life—can hurt. It takes sacrifice. But hurt is not the same as harm. Some of my most painful experiences—ending an abusive relationship, a long distance move, childbirth—have brought me the most growth and joy.
If you want to make changes to your life, let go of the idea that it will feel good. It likely will eventually! But feeling good in the short term isn’t the point. Doing good is.
Self-Destructive Belief #3: I am my work and achievements.
Perhaps the greatest inhibitor to creating healthy boundaries around work so that you can take care of yourself is your own identity. If you can’t say no to work, maybe it’s because you don’t know who you are without it. If you believe any of the following things about yourself, it can make saying “no” to work difficult:
- I am worth what I produce and achieve.
- I have to look good.
- I need to make everyone happy.
- Everyone needs to like me.
- Everyone needs to respect me.
- I am a helper.
- I am a hard worker.
- I am the only one who can do this (right).
- Everyone else’s needs are more important.
- Love is earned.
- I don’t want to upset anyone.
- You don’t say no to your boss.
- Saying no leads to rejection.
Some of these are not bad. For example, it’s terrific to be a helper or a hard worker! But if that’s all you are, then who are you if you aren’t helping or working? Your identity and self-worth must be much broader.
You are valuable, simply because you exist. I care, like I said, for my plants and the birds and my family and do you know how much work they do for me? Well, my family is actually pretty helpful, but the plants and birds? Zilch. You are worth much, much more than what you do.
Your identity and beliefs inform your choices. And every time you make a choice, you confirm your identity. The most powerful approach is to change both your beliefs and your behavior. This creates a self-reinforcing loop. If you want to take better care of yourself this year, begin by assessing your beliefs. When you change your beliefs, you change your behavior. When you change your behavior, you change your life.