Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?
Are you always swamped with daily chores, hard at work on the latest fundraising committee or too busy to even go out for a cup of coffee? Surprise: You’re your own worst enemy.
Many of us are too busy listening to our inner critics and taking care of others to give ourselves credit -- and to treat ourselves with kindness. Instead, we behave in self-destructive ways, which only makes us cranky, stressed and resentful while holding us back from happiness and success.
“We live in a culture that looks at what’s wrong rather than celebrating what’s right,” says M. Nora Klaver, a Chicago-based executive coach and the author of Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need. “Our self-talk is negative -- ‘I’ll always have too much to do’ and ‘I’ll never have time for me,’” she says. “By making those statements, you’re creating that reality.”
Here’s how to break out of these common worst-enemy behaviors and become your own best friend.
Worst Enemy Behavior: You’re too focused on your to-do list.
Why You Do It: You feel successful when you get all those little chores done at work and home, but you end up like a hamster on a treadmill: running in place and getting nowhere.
Be Your Best Friend: Of course you should get the job(s) done! But if you’re too emotionally absorbed in nitty-gritty tasks at work, you risk missing opportunities to showcase your leadership or network beyond the cubicle next to yours. And at home, if you’re consumed with managing your kids’ homework and after-school activities, you’ll miss opportunities to connect as a family and create lasting memories.
So take a step back. Praise yourself for all the things you do, and then focus on the big picture. Build time into your work schedule for higher-profile assignments. At home, create special time for your family to do fun things together.
Worst Enemy Behavior: You don’t delegate at home.
Why You Do It: You’re convinced that no one can do (fill in the blank) as fabulously as you.
Be Your Best Friend: Does it really matter how the dishwasher is loaded? Or how neatly your second-grader’s bed is made? Drop the superwoman shtick and accept a good-enough standard for things that don’t involve safety or health. Remind yourself that your home doesn’t have to be perfect. Then start delegating to your spouse and kids.
“If you’re pulled in multiple directions, you’ll feel as though you have no control over your time,” cautions Klaver. “It will lead to stress and resentment, not to mention irritability.” Besides, you’re probably doing things that you don’t enjoy (cleaning the kitchen floor) and that don’t play to your strengths (balancing the checkbook), so you’re not using your time as wisely as you could.
Worst Enemy Behavior: You’re a yes-woman who takes on too many outside projects.
Why You Do It: You’re a people-pleaser who wants to do right by everyone. You may fear you’ll lose social standing or look weak if you decline a volunteer opportunity at school or church.
Best Friend Behavior: Get clear about what’s really important to you and what you do well. Then say “Yes” to your own priorities and “No” to projects that you don’t really care about or that don’t fit into your jam-packed schedule. “Decide how much time you can give to outside activities, and stick to it,” advises Klaver. “At first, you may feel guilty that you’re not doing what everybody else wants you to do, but you’ll learn to let go of the guilt.”
Worst Enemy Behavior: You never take “me” time.
Why You Do It: You’re confusing your role in life (mother, partner, employee) with your purpose in life. Sure, you need to raise your kids, support your husband, run the house and meet work deadlines. But, as Klaver points out, “Your purpose in life is to live from your gifts and strengths. You need free time to explore what they are, and quiet time to be creative.”
Best Friend Behavior: Make a date to do something for yourself -- even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day -- and don’t let anything rob you of that time. You might savor a cup of coffee while reading some favorite blogs; meditate on your train commute; or take a walk at lunch and people-watch. Gradually increase to larger time blocks that will allow you to pursue other activities: taking a class, going to the gym, seeing a movie. “Protect this time as much as you’d protect your child’s soccer practice,” advises Klaver. After all, you’re entitled to a life beyond carpools and PowerPoint presentations. You need to spend more time with your new best friend: you!