I have this recurring pattern. Right before a significant occasion, whether hosting a party, getting ready to travel for a vacation, or preparing for holiday celebrations, I slip into a place of uneasiness.
Actually, it goes little beyond uneasiness. Sometimes, it’s downright panic.
After years of analyzing myself, (and being analyzed by others), I recently came to a conclusion: I somehow take on not only the burden of my own joy but also that of anyone and everyone else around me.
That’s right—I used the words “burden” and “joy” in the same sentence. I’m sure you already see the problem with this.
I have to admit something else: I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Combine these two things, and you have the perfect storm. Picture Martha Stewart meets Marie Kondo meets Army drill sergeant (it’s okay, you can shriek. I would.).
So here’s how this recurring anxiety pattern starts: before the big day, I create a picture in my mind of what is “supposed” to happen. That picture then takes over everything. Instead of actually experiencing the event, I end up “should-ing” all over myself, which makes it almost impossible for me to relax and feel any sort of joy. I want the things I pictured so desperately that I miss out on what’s actually happening.
Now, I consider myself fairly self-aware, and I can recognize when I’m back in said pattern. That’s when I move on to feelings of guilt, sadness, and shame.
How can this be happening again? What kind of masochist am I?
It’s not easy to break patterns. Any of us that have tried knows this all too well. But I wanted to change, and I wanted it not just for me, but for my family. I wanted to release these expectations and stop trying to please everyone around me.
The irony is that my perfectionism was making the people I loved most miserable.
Logically, I knew that most people had zero expectations of me and that this was pretty much all self-imposed. But how do I get one part of my brain to convince the other that it’s going to be okay?
A couple of years ago, I came across Tara Brach’s teachings on the practice of Radical Acceptance. She is a psychologist and an internationally-known meditation teacher. In her Radical Acceptance practice, she taught a meditation practice using a tool called RAIN.
- Recognize what is happening.
- Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.
- Investigate with interest and care.
- Nurture with self-compassion.
I thought, what if I applied this practice to what was happening in my life? Could I accept myself the way that I am right now with love and compassion without trying to change anything? And if I did, what would be different?
I’ve been using RAIN now for more than a year. I’m still a work in progress, but things have definitely shifted. I’m working with the strength and courage to accept who I am and give myself the same compassion and kindness that I would offer to another person who’s struggling.
That space is where the true healing and release of old habits begins, and real happiness can be achieved. And in those moments that once were burdened by the picture of what joy should be, now resides the bliss of the present moment, in all its perfect imperfection.
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Written by guest blogger, Robin Rodriguez. Mom to Jack, National Board Certified Health & Wellness Coach and Director of Marketing & Business Development for the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy.