Being self-congratulatory is an unattractive characteristic, huh?
To excess, perhaps, but I have a theory...
A reminder on my phone at the end of every day says "Well done, you've done your best all day."
I was asked "But what if you haven't?"
Not able to articulate it at that point, these are the thoughts I've had since.
Ten years ago, I had intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy – three sessions a week with a blank screen (ugh!). Wondering what on earth was going on, I used my librarianly skills and, with the resources of a university at my disposal, I read a lot of articles from psychotherapy and psychoanalytic journals and books.
Four lever-arch-files-worth printed, many more read; a head full of confusion, a heart full of terror.
But one idea has stuck with me.
A good-enough mother encourages her baby and congratulates him/her for every tiny thing; a smile, a sneeze, a kick of the legs, a burp, a word, a wobbly step.
Wouldn't it be a good thing to give congratulations to ourselves? Even when we're not managing very much? Who are we comparing ourselves with? And who is judging what is 'much' and 'best' anyway?
For me, it's my inner critic/saboteur who judges me and she can be the harshest person I know.
Surely we all have different capacities and limits. For example, a man in group therapy was able to get to the session each week – it was often the only time he left the house or spoke. Or a lady at church, who has five children, two of whom are twins, when asked how she managed when they were little, said she used to tell herself "If I get nothing done today, I've done well."
More recently, I've been listening to Kristin Neff's fantastic self-compassion CDs. On the final track on the final CD, she talks about setting intentions. She suggests starting the day by lighting a candle and, in effect, planting a seed and asking for what we need.
I'm trying this by saying "May I be my most self-compassionate, wisest, most assertive and decisive self."
And by congratulating myself for doing my best at the end of every day, it sets the intention to do my best. It encourages me and the hope is that that the seed will grow, that it will spur me on..
Self-compassion isn't letting oneself off the hook, or letting oneself do things that are unhealthy or not for one's own good, but it accepts the reality that sometimes just getting through the day is doing one's best.
Being human can be tough – why not encourage and congratulate oneself for those little things? Why not set intentions to do our best, dangling a carrot rather than threatening with a stick? Who knows how much it will amount to in the end?
And hopefully this theory hasn't turned into a lecture – that most certainly isn't my intention!
A Moodscope member.