People will try to tell you that they can tell what you value, by what you do.
They will try to tell you that because you do something or you don’t do something, then that MUST mean you do or don’t value something.
“If you really wanted that thing, you’d do X.”
“If you really valued our friendship, you would’t do Y.”
“If you really wanted to get over your PTSD, you’d do Z.”
“If you really wanted to quit (insert addiction here), you’d just quit.”
If only it was that simple.
It’s really hard to wrap our brains around the fact that we often do things that seem to be in direct opposition to what we actually value.
We may very much value a relationship…but do things that damage it.
We may very much want to quit a substance or a behavior…but we keep doing them.
We may very much want to feel and function differently than we do…but we do things that seem to actively sabotage our chances of EVER feeling and functioning better.
Then we get very down on ourselves for making such terrible “choices.”
Human choices are not as simple as we want them to be.
It’s very much not a matter of “if you value X, you’d obviously do Y.”
We may VERY MUCH value X and VERY MUCH want to do Y— but there are reasons why we find it really difficult to do Y EVEN THOUGH we value X.
Especially when our past is painful and complicated, we may have trouble following through on things we know we “should” do.
Very often we are as confused and frustrated as anyone else by our behavior.
We may be scared to do the things we know we “should” do.
We may not believe we CAN do the things we “should” do.
We may feel too hopeless and helpless to do the things we “should” do.
There may be lots of reasons why we struggle with our behavior, but no one who does struggle with their behavior is siting back and ENJOYING that struggle.
Often when we struggle to do what we know we “should” do, we’re HATING on ourselves for struggle.
But we’re not going to hate ourselves into behaving “better.’
What we need to do is try to UNDERSTAND that part of us that’s resisting.
We need to try to understand it BEYOND “I must be lazy.”
We need to try to understand it BEYOND “I must not REALLY want what I say I want.”
We need to approach ourselves with empathy— which may not be easy, especially if we didn’t have a lot of empathy shown to us in our lives.
If we were told over and over again to shut up and get our sh*t together, we’re probably really good at telling ourselves to shut up and get our sh*t together.
Thing is, “get your sh*t together” isn’t all that helpful an instruction.
Most often it means “shove down those stupid EMOTIONS and just do what I want.”
That approach almost never works in the long run.
We lose nothing by approaching ourselves with respect. We lose nothing by talking to ourselves supportively. It does not make us “soft.” It does not incline us toward “excuses.”
If we want to change how we feel and function, we need to approach ourselves in such a way that does not immediately trigger defenses.
Attacking ourselves will not result in positive change. Mocking ourselves will not result in positive change. Hating ourselves will not result in positive change.
Humans do not change for the better when they feel threatened. Humans protect themselves when they feel threatened. Humans shut down when they feel threatened.
We can change how we feel, and we can change what we do. Humans change how they feel and function every day.
But we only change by working with ourselves, not attacking ourselves.