How to accept yourself
Your problem: ‘I’ve got so much, but I’m never happy with myself.’
‘In theory, I’m a success: I’m a partner in a law firm, have four children aged three-11, a supportive husband and a lovely house. But I regularly lie awake at night, running through all the things I’ve done wrong that day: how I could have chaired a meeting better or how I haven’t achieved what I wanted with my children. I haven’t had time to do my usual triathlon training and feel old, tired and fat – even though I’m still a size 10. There’s always a voice in my head telling me do more and have a lot of rows with my husband who wants me to be more relaxed. Should I be? How do I reconcile my high standards with my search for feeling calm and contented on a deeper level?’
Louise, 45, Leeds
The solution: ‘You need to accept yourself’
1 Define and conquer your inner critic
This voice in your head encourages you to believe that nothing in your life is ever good enough. So the question has to be, good enough for whom? To help you answer that question, try to work out where this persistent inner critic comes from. Whatever the trigger, perhaps pushy parents or someone telling you, you’ll never be good enough – you have shaky self-esteem. Over the years, you have compensated for this by achieving things to convince yourself you’re OK. The trouble is, over time, your critic demands more and more ‘proof’ of perfection, so now your family, home and career must be perfect, too.
2 Get off the treadmill
It’s good that we occasionally push ourselves out of our comfort zone and strive to do new things. After all, if we didn’t nudge our kids, they’d still be crawling and eating baby food. But it’s unhealthy if this drive gets out of balance. Living on a treadmill is for rodents only.
3 Healthy relationships start with you
You need to develop compassion for yourself. Studies show that this greatly enhances one’s wellbeing and also reduces anxiety and depression. Developing this also helps us in our relationships with others, because it helps us to be relaxed about both their, and our, frailties. For this reason, developing compassion can also make it easier for us to stick to diets, exercise regimes or new challenges.
4 Do random things without an agenda
Arrange a vase of flowers, or go for a long walk and take pleasure in the birdsong, the architecture or just people-watching. And at the weekends, shift your priorities so that having fun with the family takes precedence.
5 Treat yourself
Recognise that one of the reasons why you’re a successful partner in a law firm is because you’re driven and you work hard – and that,
as a result, you’re entitled now to some fun/sex/chocolate/sleep. Remember: you don’t have to prove yourself any more. You are you, and now it’s time to love yourself for who you are.
If you have a question about your partner or other relationships you’d like Lucy to help resolve, email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘advice’ in the subject line. All correspondence will be treated in the strictest confidence.