Remember that list you keep? It might not be a literal list, but it is a list somewhere in your psyche. I am referring specifically to that list that gets added to every time you say “no” to your desires. Whether you are aware of the painful “no moment” when it comes up, a little part of you sulks away, head and shoulders down and heart a little broken, when this occurs.
We make choices every day that inform the kind of life we live. Many of these are routine decisions that occur almost on autopilot. Sometimes autopilot keeps us from recognizing the “no moments” that accumulate over time. Every time we choose to spend another half an hour watching television, we are saying “no” to journaling, meditating, dancing, extra sleep, connecting with a friend – you name it. Decompressing with television is not problematic in itself, it is problematic when it replaces life-giving activities that allow us to actually spend time with ourselves.
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Journaling, meditating, taking a bath – these are more routine moments that may or may not live on our list. These are the “I should” self-care tasks. But there is another part of the list that I am talking about that represents a deeper rejection of ourselves. It is the “I wish” portion of our list. The list might be full of items you can plug into this sentence:
I wish I were ____________ enough to _____________.
For me, this happened recently when I was heading out for a solo beach day. I had, among other beachy items, my hula hoop in the back of my vehicle. I tossed it in, not seriously planning to use it. My list item was “I wish I were brave enough to hula hoop on the beach by myself.” On the way to the beach a combination of desire and the right song on my playlist lined up and I teared up as a realization washed over me: “I have to hula hoop on the beach today, I refuse to live my life like this.” And I did. I hula hooped until I was sweaty, sandy, and tired.
This may not seem earth shattering, but it is not really about hula hooping. It is about making fear-based decisions and living small lives because we are afraid of judgment and rejection. When we live our lives like this, for other people, there is a resentment that builds in us. We trade authentic expression of ourselves for approval from others. The thing is, that most people are not thinking about us, and anyone that would criticize you for living a full, vibrant life, is likely just mad at themselves for the length of their list.
Do yourself a favor and dump your list out on paper, then get to it! Whatever is on your list, know that you are worthy enough to dance, sing, wear that outfit, talk to that person, write that book, decorate your house that way, to say “no” to when you do not have a “yes” in you, or whatever else might be residing on your list.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, provides online counseling in New Jersey and works to develop a strong therapeutic relationship with her clients, which helps to create a secure place where individuals can achieve meaningful change.
Sarah Tronco, LCSW, now also provides online counseling in Pennsylvania, contact her to learn more.
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