Nine Ways to Stop Hurting Yourself
First you must make the decision to stop hurting yourself. Then, you must do the work.
I do a lot of shit to hurt myself. Without thinking I berate and belittle. My inner self talk is negative and hurtful. I am impatient with myself. I don't give myself any slack. I get angry when I react out of fear, and then feel intense shame that I am not further along in my journey, better than I am, or just plan more than I am.
I'm truly an Olympian at self-sabotage. Yes it’s a thing. I'm also great at the self-fulfilling pain and hurt cycle. This is all tainted by my fear of being abandoned. I will create and push and mold situations, only to ensure abandonment is eventual outcome.
The truth is, that by not focusing on healing and growing, I am choosing to hurt myself. By not actively choosing to heal, I am choosing to stay wounded. This means I continue to remain in pain and hurt.
Its easy to overlook the things that we do to hurt ourselves. We think that it’s the big actions, the big stuff that cause pain. We look for big issues like drinking too much, unhealthy eating, other forms of self-medicating, self-harm, and not seeking council.
However, it’s the small actions every day, and there are many, that have just as much of a detrimental effect.
Consider a break-up as an example. As humans, we have the tendency to futurize things. We ask ourselves questions like, "What if I run into him/her," or "If I see him/her with a new partner what kind of conversation would we have?" We waste time looking at their social media. Scanning through their Facebook or their Instagram feed, to see if there have been updates and changes and what they may be posting about. We try to piece together the new life of a person we no longer share space with. All the while, we don’t stop to consider how these actions makes us feel.
For me, what I feel is pure fear and anxiety when going through his social media. It would hurt a shit-ton if I saw pictures of him with a new girlfriend. I don’t want to. I don’t want to have another conversation. By doing these things, we actively keep ourselves stuck. Stuck in the past, stuck in the abandoned perspective, stuck in the pain, and stuck in the cycle of not good enough.
I am tired of treating myself like a second-class citizen. I am tired of the beatings and the unkindness—especially because they are self-induced! I am not cool or down or fijizzle with this anymore. This behaviour does not support me anymore. This is not how I see myself or how I want to be moving through this incredible journey called life.
I have a serious problem with this sheer unkindness toward myself. I believe that kindness is integral and fundamental to a happy life. I choose it every.single.time. with everyone else. Sadly, when it comes to me, it goes right out the window. When I got divorced, I made the conscious decision that I would treat my ex and our divorce process with kindness. I didn’t take my rage out on him, I didn’t attack his character, I wished him well and sent him my good vibes. I chose not to have a rebound relationship in part because I wanted him to know that our marriage mattered, that he mattered.
Instead of treating myself with the same kindness, I beat myself up and berated myself, and took responsibility not just for my own stuff but for everything. His stuff, our stuff, the kitchen sink stuff, all of it. Not cool.
I have now made the decision to stop hurting myself. It's Simple. There is no grey area. There is no maybe, if, but, or sort of. I do not want to hurt myself anymore. After a lifetime of doing so hurting myself, It seems daunting to change this behaviour, and let go of something so familiar.
Making the decision is the first step. Now that the decision is made, each and every thought, action and belief gets asked the same question. "How will this make me feel?" "Will this hurt me?" If if the answer is "Yes," then I am not going to do it. Simple.
It’s important to remember that self inflicting pain is not the same as learning from painful experiences. One is continuous self-sabotage, and keeps us stuck, and further damages us. When we are already in pain, we cannot change perspective, we ruminate, cannot let go, and are stuck with the belief that we are not worthy of peace, freedom, love. This is emotionally unhealthy and psychologically damaging. The other is about learning and growing, moving through an experience knowing that it has happened exactly as it should have to give you exactly what you need.
In making the decision, we stood up and yelled "Hell yes," to the world and said "No more!"
What do you do next? How do you implement lasting changes, curb unhealthy responses and be kind to yourself? Here’s what I have learnt. Some days it’s all of these things, and on other days one is enough to redirect, flip, change into my kindness gear.
1. The most important thing to do—Show up for yourself.
It’s a non-negotiable. Showing up for yourself means you follow through. It means when you say you will do something—you do it. It means when you say you're not going to hurt yourself—you show up and you don’t hurt yourself. You keep following through again and again. You show up like you would for your friend or your child. Gently, kindly and consistently.
2. Say "Fuck no" to self-criticism.
There is a difference between saying a "I made a mistake," and "I am a mistake." We automatically call ourselves names, moan about our shortcomings, feel disgust, remorse and shame. Yes, healing, growing and learning is about reflection—looking at something and doing it differently or doing more of it if it makes us happy and feel good. While going through this process, there is no good reason to be punitive and berate ourselves.
3. Stop making everything about you.
I know that it feels like everything really is all about you—especially when you've been rejected by a love interest, a new job or a friendship. People make decisions based on a multitude of different patterns, criteria, old hurts, and reasons. For the most part, these reasons, have diddly squat to do with you. No matter how finely you go through your list of inadequacies, the outcome will still be misleading. You simply cannot factor in all of minutiae and variables.
All you can do is take responsibility for yourself, and know where your responses are coming from. Part of this is also trying not to attach or associate a feeling, memory, or emotion to everything. Some things just are. Like Greece, yes the country. I have always wanted to live in Greece, always loved the culture, the food, the way of life. After ending a relationship with a Greek man I adored, it became his Greece. Every time I ate Feta, I remembered how he loved it. I loved feta cheese long before I loved him. Sometimes cheese is just cheese, not a tool to hurt myself with, just cheese.
4. Ruminating is not remembering.
Memories are beautiful things. It's wonderful that we have them and are able to keep in ourselves these little nuggets of joy and pleasure. Learn from the other stuff and then let it go. Going over and over events, conversations and arguments isn’t about reflection its about causing discomfort. Keep the good stuff, understand the other stuff, let some of it form part of your non-negotiables and then move on.
5. Remember your self-worth.
Make a list of the things you’re good at, three things at a time, anytime. Sometimes my list has things like, I make really good cupcakes. Other times, it says, I am a loyal friend and a great listener. These are all valuable qualities. They are qualities that I love about myself. Then choose one quality from your list and write a quick paragraph about it. This exercise is to help boost your self-esteem. It’s about being kind to yourself.
6. Have an arsenal of powerful affirmations and pump your positive thoughts.
Affirmations are a really good thing to set a tone for your day or to help change the tone. They are used to support your mental attitude. If you can’t come with one of your own, buy some, or find some on the internet and print them off. Yes, some shit is painful and difficult. It is possible to mourn your mother, get through a divorce and move through life changing painful experiences with a positive attitude—it means you have hope. Hope is what carries us through. It’s the difference between "Life is being done to me, I am a victim," to "I am doing life and painful experiences are simply part of life."
7. Make a big deal of experiences, feelings, and events— acknowledge them and and let them sink in.
I am notoriously bad at accepting compliments. I am really bad at looking at the small things, letting them in, getting excited about them and expressing joy. We live in this world where we are so desensitized that we don’t even notice things anymore, like small gestures of kindness, when those around us are vulnerable, the little good things that the universe does every day. We will complain about missing a bus, or it being so crowded but won’t give the same amount of energy to a stranger smiling at us or a person being vulnerable and showing up, or a note from a friend. Get excited and show it!
8. Be grateful.
Part of getting excited is getting thankful. It’s expressing how filling and delicious a meal is. It’s going to the movie, festival, theatre, park. It’s the fist pumping at the awesomeness of seeing a friend for dinner. Its taking nothing for granted. I journal three things that I am grateful for everyday—its amazing to see the list mature. I am grateful for qualities and attributes that my life experiences have given me. I am grateful for more and more everyday. People choose who they love, who they are friends with, who they marry—how wonderful that they choose us.
9. Turn everything into an act of kindness and self-love.
Treat yourself. Instead of singing the songs and thinking of others I think of myself, and show myself that love. Every time I walk past a mirror, I stop and say something affirming and positive to myself. I tell myself I am beautiful, awesome, and/or worthy. I show myself love by going to Crossfit or taking a walk or a nap. Sometimes a eat cake or buy flowers for my room. Love yourself and shower yourself with adoration.
We have learnt the very bad habit of hurting ourselves. Sadly, it's become our default. It is a habit that can be undone and broken. Breaking this habit gets easier and easier over time. You will start to notice the changes as you align yourself with the universe. It happens when you have the moments to stop and smell the flowers. When you hear laughter and see smiles in others you encounter.
When one thing falls away, another more awesome thing takes its place.
You begin to feel joy and excitement and hope. It will become easier to let go of the things that no longer serve you. Your inner voice will say "Nah, you're worthy of more than that girlfriend, you're awesome." Eventually, that will become your default. It's a new habit forming and the sheer joy, love and pleasure of it makes me want to keep being authentic and showing up.
I hope you will find the ways to feel it too.