We’ve all got stories that we tell ourselves about habits we don’t like or wish we could change. Like – ‘I’m such a huge procrastinator’, or ‘I’m not very creative’, or ‘I never stick with anything’.
I’ve been doing a lot of work around changing my mindset recently. I’ve read a lot of books that talk about how unhelpful these ways of describing ourselves as ‘being too x’ or ‘not being y enough’ can be. These personas we give ourselves are really just traits and habits that we’ve adopted at various stages in our lives – often to keep us safe – and we can choose to just stop doing them at any time if we put our minds to it.
I’m all for breaking my unhelpful tendencies. And there are a lot I’d like to break! (Hello perfectionism, control freakishness, good-girl behaviour and people pleasing).
But, inspired by something Ray Dodd said last week, I am discovering that each of these ‘negative’ tendencies highlights a shadow side to our positive traits too. And I’m finding it really useful to try to work out what purpose they are serving, before just throwing them aside or using them as a stick to beat myself with.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to break old, unhelpful habits. I guess I’m saying that they’re often trying to tell us something important. And those messages can get lost if we’re all ‘Oh god, why am I such a xxxx’, or ‘Why can’t I just stop xxxx’, about them.
Listening to yourself, with kindness – I guess that’s what I’m talking about.
For instance. Every Thursday I tell myself that I’m a terrible blogger. I never have anything ready to publish until the last minute and every attempt I make at getting organised in advance just ends in failure and self loathing. I love the idea of getting ahead of myself.
I dream of having a few posts in the bag so I could just hit ‘publish’ on a Thursday.
The irony is that I know exactly how to get ahead. I’m a pro copywriter and content creator FFS! I know how to approach content creation in an efficient, productive way. I know I could/should have a content plan populated with month’s of pretty headlines all lined up and ready to inspire me into a whirr of typing each week.
But I can’t seem to do any of that for this blog. Week in, week out, it gets to Thursday lunchtime and I have to accept that I don’t want to write what I had planned to write. I look at my content plan and I feel deflated. And then I end up writing something totally different and off the cuff.
I’ve tried just breaking the habit but that doesn’t work. And now I know it’s because the habit itself has some powerful information in there that I need to understand before I can move on or think about doing things differently.
Like that it feels important to me to write about how I’m feeling today – not how I felt last week or last month.
And also, that I’m a little bit addicted to the roller coaster of feelings this kind of writing process gives me. The ‘stuck in my stomach’ jitters I get when I’m trying to work out what the actual F I’m going to write about this week. That tingly moment when inspiration strikes and the words pour out onto the page. The pleasure of refining and polishing them until they feel like purity. And the soaring feeling in my heart when this week’s work is done for another week.
So, now I have listened kindly to what my, formerly dubbed, ‘crappy blogger habit’ has to say. I’m going to rebrand her as my ‘writing from the heart’ blogging habit.
I’ve seen the light hiding behind this shadow habit of mine and I can do something about it.
I could ignore my love for this weekly process and my intuition that this from-the-heart writing is my best and just get on with content creation. But the way my stomach plummeted just now tells me that isn’t what I want to do.
Or, I could embrace my need to write this way, but do it with infinitely more kindness to myself. I can make more space for it – keep Thursdays free for writing and stop booking random life-admin stuff in on this day.
I can also let go of my ego’s idea of what blogging should look like. I can just quit that whole depressing hour or two of staring dejectedly at my content planner, go for a walk or do some yoga instead, and wait for inspiration to hit.
I can change that part of the ‘bad habit’ and embrace the rest of it.
And maybe that’s a way to rebuild the parts of myself that I’d like to change. One little habit at a time, deconstructed and gently prodded to find the good stuff underneath, and then welcomed back in a kinder, more helpful guise.
I could just be onto something.