Earlier this year, I experienced some health challenges that made it difficult to operate at my normal capacity. I found myself at the end of each day, frustrated and angry at myself for failing to do what I should have done.
One night, I lay in bed, berating myself again. I didn’t clean the shower today. I didn’t play any educational games with the twins. I didn’t cook a healthy organic dinner. I didn’t make a homemade love note for my husband. I didn’t text my daughter. I didn’t… I didn’t… The list went on and on and suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore. I literally yelled, “Stop!” at myself. And then I lay quietly for a minute.
And in that quiet space, I had a thought. Stop listing your failures. Start listing your successes. I scoffed. Did I have any successes that day?
Well, somewhat sarcastically, I thought, I did get out of bed. Though, when you don’t really feel well enough to get out of bed, that is actually a success.
OK, I said to myself. I got out of bed. And then I began to list more. I got a shower AND washed my hair. I got a load of laundry done. I cleaned the bathroom mirrors and sinks. I took the twins to the park. I texted a friend for her birthday. I made dinner for the family…
And on I went. By the time I was done, I had a pretty substantial list. I was amazed. My day was not a complete failure. The truth of it was, I had accomplished far more than I had realized, even in the midst of not feeling well.
And for the first time in a very long time, I fell asleep peacefully.
Until the next morning.
As was my habit, I lay in bed thinking of all of the things I should do that day.
I should plan a week-long educational curriculum for the twins. I should re-do my meal plan. I should make capsule wardrobes for the whole family. I should…
And as was my habit, I got completely overwhelmed. And again, I yelled, “Stop!” at myself. Then I lay quietly for a minute. And in that quiet space, I had a another thought.
Considering your current circumstances, what is reasonable to do today?
And I took that bar—you know, that impossibly high bar that we set way up in the air for ourselves—and I lowered it. I brought it down to a human level. I brought it down to a woman-who-is-not-well-and-doing-her-best level. I stopped setting myself up for certain failure. I thought about my day and planned a realistic list of things I thought I could accomplish, based on my circumstances and what I felt was most important.
And do you know what? Instead of feeling like a failure for not accomplishing Herculean tasks that day, I felt the peace of knowing that I was doing what was best for myself and my family.
Those are my new secret weapons against feeling like a failure. First thing each morning, I consider my circumstances and determine what is realistic for me to do that day. Second, at the end of the day, I list to myself all of the things I did accomplish that day—from the very small, to the sometimes big. And I feel the peace of knowing that I am not a failure. Actually, I am a success.
QUESTION: Do you have a method to improve your mood when you’re feeling down on yourself? What do you do to change your perspective to think about your successes instead of your failures?
CHALLENGE: This week, try out the two techniques from this article. Each morning, think about the things you’d like to do and make a reasonable list for the day. Then at the end of the day, think about all of the things you did do.
Edited by Kimberly Price and Nollie Haws.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash. Graphic by Anna Jenkins.
I love this! YES! Women need more messages like this. Thank you.
Yes, we do! I think we do so much more than we give ourselves credit.
Kate These Days says
This is a really encouraging article! Thank you!
You’re welcome! I hope you celebrate your successes today!
Lori Floyd says
I cannot tell you how much this speaks to me! We get so many “good ideas” from social media that without realizing it, we begin to compare ourselves to all those ideas. We forget that we are just one person. We forget about all the things we ARE doing because we are focusing on all the things we aren’t doing! Thank you!
We’re just bombarded these days, aren’t we? I’m so glad this spoke to you. Count up your successes!