Making the interior journey into authenticity and wholeness is not easy. But could we also be making it even more difficult than it has to be?
In this episode I talk about three common ways we often unwittingly sabotage ourselves by treating ourselves with contempt, having unrealistic expectations, and not availing ourselves to the support we need.
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00:08 - Introduction
01:04 - 1. Self-contempt
09:52 - 2. Unrealistic Expectations
20:34 - 3. Not Getting Sufficient Help
28:22 - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
33:18 - Conclusion
- As you listened to this episode, which points maybe resonated with you more?
- Was there something that jumped out at you?
- Which of the three points do you feel is the most relevant for you?
- Which one of these are more of an issue for you at this point in time?
- With one of the three points you have picked, consider one thing you can do towards helping yourself.
For full details of this reflection prompt, please see transcript.
Other episodes that would help you understand and apply the lessons in this episode:
- Ep 12 Am I Regressing?
- Ep 24 Is it Selfish to Live the Life I Want?
- Ep 26 Can You Be Gentler With Yourself?
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EP 29 | 3 WAYS WE MAKE THINGS HARDER FOR OURSELVES
Are you making the interior journey into authenticity harder than it needs to be?
Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.
Hello again, dear listeners! In today's episode, I would like to explore three ways that you may be sabotaging your interior journey without even realizing it. Now, of course, there are actually more than three ways that we can possibly make things harder for ourselves. But I thought, you know, to keep things simple, we'll just start with three very common ways that we make things more difficult for ourselves.
[00:01:04] 1. SELF-CONTEMPT
Okay, so the first way that we sabotage ourselves is through self-contempt, okay? Self-contempt. Now, this is a very tricky one because very often, we don't even consciously realize that we're doing it – that we are actually treating ourselves with contempt. If I were to ask you, what's your attitude towards yourself when you're not doing as well as you think you should be– what would your answer be?
Now, most of us, before we have begun on the interior journey, we may not even have the level of self-awareness needed to really recognize the tone in the voice in our head. Okay, so, we may not even realize what is the attitude and the posture we adopt towards ourselves. Let's say you make a mistake, or you fail to do something that you had resolved to do.
How do you react to yourself? How do you respond to yourself? Maybe you had promised yourself that – let's say in this new day, you're going to try to keep your cool and be patient, and not lose your temper with your child, who maybe has been trying your patience a lot of late. And you begin the day well; you try and remember to be patient, to be gentle. But at some point, it just gets too much, and you snapped, and you raised your voice.
Maybe you shouted at your child, and you see that reaction in his face. You see that look of fright and maybe the tears well up in his eyes. And in that moment, you know, that you have failed your promise, right? You have failed yourself. You failed to keep the promise you made to yourself. Do you feel shame?
Do you feel disappointment in yourself? It would be natural for you to feel that way. I mean, we all do, right? – when we fail to keep a promise to ourselves. But then pay attention to the way that you address yourself after that point. Once you recognize that you have failed, what tone of voice do you speak to yourself in? Maybe it's just in your head, right?
You may not actually say it out – but is there disdain? Is there contempt? Do you say things like: “Why are you so stupid” or “Look at you, you can never do anything right”? So, the voice in my head usually says something like; Ann, look at what you've done. Look at the mess you've made again. And another one that I tend to say to myself is “why is it that this is still happening?”
I mean, shouldn't you be doing better by now? Okay, so, in that moment, I usually don't realize that's how I'm speaking to myself either. I only notice a while after, usually after I may have spiralled downwards into even more discouragement and into a darker space. I might have lost my cool again – let's say at home with my husband, or found myself, you know, filled with frustration even more as the day goes by.
But the good thing is that we can become more conscious, right? – about what's happening in our inner space. When we make this interior journey, we can learn – even if we cannot stop ourselves in the moment, we know that let's say at the end of the day, we can take some time to review how we have been with ourselves that day. So, when I do that – I will say sometimes when the day is very long, I don't even do this review at the end of the day.
I can be too tired, but I try to do that the first thing in the next morning. So, I do what I call an examine of consciousness: I revisit the previous day and look at what I'm grateful for, but also what I'm not grateful for – what are the moments that were difficult that I wish had not happened. And often, that's when I'll recognize that, okay, I have been overly harsh with myself.
I will notice that I was very aggressive. And now, that posture of aggressiveness; that used to be what I always thought was the right thing to do. If I want to improve, if I want to grow, you know, tough love and all that, right? I tend to be a believer in tough love.
I know I need to be firm and challenging with myself, but I think the issue was – the problem was I never learned how to be soft, to be patient, to be gentle. And since then, I've realized that tenderness and compassion and kindness can go a lot further than harshness and aggressiveness – even to myself, even when it's just me journeying with myself.
So, when I noticed that when I'm speaking to myself with contempt, I need to repair this relationship with myself. And so when I review and I recognize that I have been very harsh to myself, I tend to say sorry to myself. And, you know, say that I don't actually mean – I didn't mean to be harsh and that I understand that this whole journey is hard, that we will make mistakes, that I will make mistakes.
And that, although things didn't quite go the way that we had planned or hoped, we can always begin again, right? It's okay to make mistakes. So, there was one particular incident sometime back – but I had a very bad morning. The day had barely begun, but I had already fallen short. I kind of like, I felt like I’ve messed up.
And as I was driving, I could feel that frustration and anger just bubble up. And it was showing even in the way that I was driving; I was driving aggressively, and I was spiralling deeper into this – I don't know, anger with myself; this frustration. Why is it that so early in a day I've messed up already? Suddenly, a thought came to me: Why don't you begin again now?
Like, you know you can just reset. Yes, you made a mistake. You know you fell down, you screwed up, but this very moment, or this next moment – every moment is a chance for you to just start again. We can start afresh. You don't have to be burdened by what had happened just before that. It's natural to fall when you're learning, you know?
And all of a sudden, that gloom just lifted. I suddenly was just filled with hope. I realized that I needn't berate myself; I needn’t be scolding myself. In fact, I should be cheering myself on – I should be encouraging myself, you know? And telling myself: Ann, that's okay. We're going to start anew right now. You know, we're not going to hold that mistake against ourself.
And the rest of the day was so much better. So, sometimes when we have fallen and we have disappointed ourselves, just like if it was another person – like a child perhaps, or you know, our own child maybe, who has disappointed us or has fallen short in some way. Or maybe, you know, they messed up and they don't need another person to tell them how much wrong they've done, right?
They don't need a reminder. They know that. They need tenderness and kindness and encouragement. And that's the same thing for us. So, we are with ourselves 24/7, and the voice in our head is a voice that we hear the most. If we can learn to be more compassionate and kind and comforting when we most need it – and that's usually when we have fallen short – we would do so much better on this interior journey. You know, it would make this journey a lot less painful. So, that's the first way we tend to sabotage ourselves without knowing; when we treat ourselves with contempt – when we are unnecessarily harsh and critical with ourselves.
[00:09:52] 2. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
So, oftentimes I would come across someone who has recently decided that it's important to make this interior journey, right? It's this “aha!” moment – they didn't realize it before and now they do, and they're committed. They want to make a commitment and they’re eager and they're passionate – and all that is wonderful, right?
But they often have an unrealistic expectation that the journey is going to be straightforward; that it will be fast. And that somehow as long as they put their mind to it and they put in the effort that it would naturally somehow, you know, translate to everything moving forward – that they will get to know themselves better, become more aware of their shadows and be able to be more authentic – all that, right?
Now, I had the same expectation years ago when I just started on the interior journey. And I guess we can't help it. I mean, we don't know what it's like after all, when we just begin. But along the way, I found that having that kind of expectation – that inner-growth; that this interior journey will be linear and rapid.
It sets us up for a lot of heartache and disappointment. Right, what do I mean by linear and rapid? Okay, so, it's like thinking that there's a set of stages that we need to move through and we just need to clear one level and then go to the next level – and that leads to the next level. And, you know, soon we'd just succeed at every level, and we'll be done.
Now, that kind of expectation leads to a lot of frustration and a lot of discouragement because the reality is, that this process is anything but linear. I mean, there are times when we will have growth spurts, right? There are times when we seem to cover a lot of ground within a relatively short period of time.
And those times are wonderful. We feel very encouraged. We feel empowered. We realize that we've really grown in our self-knowledge, right? – as compared to maybe a few months or a year before, you know, however long the period was. And we do become stronger and wiser, and we recognize that we have – we are more anchored in our core identity. But then, you know, sometimes the next thing we know, we slip up and we do the same things that we used to do.
And we find ourselves repeating patterns that we thought we should have gotten over by now. Right, and then we can be – well, very disappointed in ourselves, but that's actually normal. That's actually normal. I mean, think about it. When we begin to make this interior journey, we are starting the process of kind of, unlearning and undoing years and years – even decades actually – of operating in a certain way.
Right? Those scripts that we have inherited – the scripts that we have lived by for our entire lives up to that point when we begin to make the interior journey – they are very, very deeply ingrained in us. And to go a different way, to unlearn those scripts. It's not the work of, you know, one day or one week or one month or even one year.
It's actually a lifelong journey. And there are so many layers. And there'll be times when the going is smooth, and progress seem to happen rather quickly. And there will also be times when we will find that we revert to the old way of being and the old way of living. And it's just too tiring to go against our programming, you know?
I mean, we've been – it's like we've been programmed to operate a certain way, right? And now, because we want to go a different way, we need to be very conscious and intentional in acting in a different way – and that's tiring. It's tiring to have to be intentional all the time, right?
Especially when the new norm – I mean, we are not yet at the point where this new way of being is normal yet, for us. We can get there. We can get, of course, to the point where this new way of living more authentically, more gently and compassionately – all that; they can become the default but that's not going to happen in like a linear straightforward way.
And it's certainly not going to happen on schedule for us. You know, it's not something that we can plan for that point to come. And more often than not, we will find that things are more complicated, and progress is slower and messier than we expected. Right, so, growth is not linear, and it is not rapid. There are certain rhythms to the journey.
And in my experience, my own journey, there seems to be cycles that I would go through, you know? Something would happen that kind of stops me or slows me down in my tracks. I've shared before about how I experienced burnout – so that's an example of how something happens and, you know, I have to slow down; something stops me.
And then after that, I go through a season of deeper introspection and reflection. And then I need deep healing, right? Whatever’ surfacing up – I realized that I need to tend to myself. So, there'll be a season where a lot more energy has to be focused inward because that's the need when we are on this interior journey. There will be seasons in which a lot of our energy needs to be focused on nurturing ourselves and growing ourselves.
That's not being selfish – and I've shared this in an earlier episode, right? That's not being selfish. It's like eating when we are hungry, right? Our body knows when it's time that we need input; that we need to eat in order to continue to live. And it's the same thing for the life of our spirit, the life of our soul.
There are times when, you know, the focus needs to be on feeding ourselves and nurturing ourselves. And times of – seasons of healing certainly would fall into that kind of category. But after a season of receiving and, you know, kind of like introspection and healing for me, usually that will be followed by another season of learning and equipping and strengthening. And that's when I will – I know that I'm being prepared to go out again, you know – to be able to serve at an even higher level than before, right? I'm able to go out even further than before because now I am more or integrated and I'm stronger and I'm more anchored.
So, I can actually reach out further. So, then eventually that season of equipping will lead to a season of service and there's a lot of pouring out. And that season of pouring out, usually, the majority of the energy will be in the pouring out and serving of others. Right, but after a while, because you know, being out there and serving, agan it will lead me to a place of recognizing there are new things that I have not recognized in myself that needs to be tended to and needs to be healed.
So it's a, it's a cycle, right? It's a spiral really – it's a virtuous cycle, a virtuous spiral. So, there are seasons and rhythms like that in the interior life. And because there are seasons and cycles in this journey, if we have unrealistic expectations that, for example, I can keep pouring out without stopping, without needing to rest very much, or that even if I need to rest, it's just like, you know, a long weekend or a vacation and I can get right back into pouring out for others again.
Well, it's going to harm myself more than help. And it's not going to be very effective unless we learn how to recognize what season we're in. If we don't honour the season that we are supposed to be in, usually what will happen is that we're going to end up crashing – because what needs to happen needs to happen.
And then we'll just be even more discouraged, right? So, understanding that there are these cycles and seasons, having more realistic kind of expectations it's going to help us – it’s going to prevent us from being unnecessarily discouraged. So, I also mentioned in an earlier episode that sometimes growth actually can feel like moving backwards, right?
Because we need to revisit earlier parts of ourselves, younger parts of ourselves that has learned a way of operating that was harmful. And then now we need to go back and undo that programming, that script. And moving backwards sometimes requires us to let ourselves go a little, you know just – even misbehave, a little, you know?
And what our mind thinks is misbehaving – we just can't always be maybe that disciplined, hitting all the right notes. And we learned that that's not the way it was ever meant to be. And if we have been holding ourselves too tight for very long; if we been too tightly wound for a long time, sometimes we need a season of cutting it loose, right?
So, that also could be a normal part of the journey. So, we can't always be in control of this journey. In fact, I think this journey is one in which we are not really in control. It’s actually an intuitive process. We learn to move as we listen to what's happening with us. And if we are people of faith, like I am, this journey requires a lot of listening to the promptings of the divine – of God, you know, of the Holy Spirit, because this journey is also a response to the grace that is offered to me.
And for as long as I've been on this journey, I have continued to realize that I need to adjust my expectations and that things are always somehow going to be moving either slower or faster than I expect. It's just often not the way that I wanted or planned – you know, if I could plan it to be. And also, I've realized that I will be falling a lot more than I would like.
But all that is normal. So, now when those difficult seasons come up, when growth seems to slow down or even stop at times, when I lose my motivation – I am not so depressed about it. You know, I've come to be able to accept that and understand that it's good. It's okay. I can stop a while to rest from this constant, intentional work of healing, right?
Because even there's some striving of there – there needs to be some striving in that too. And maybe I'm still trying a little too hard. And even if I wasn't, I need to take a break. And it's always okay to rest and to begin again.
[00:20:34] 3. NOT GETTING SUFFICIENT HELP
The third way that we sabotage our interior journey is by not availing ourselves to sufficient help.
I think it's very important to say that we are sabotaging ourselves if we're not getting sufficient help because, I think we very often underestimate the amount of support that we need to make this interior journey. And if we only knew what kind of resources we could tap on – that we could invest in, we could make this whole process a lot less painful than it has to be.
I mean, the process itself of making this interior journey into authenticity and wholeness, it is not easy, right? It's really challenging. And it takes a lot of courage, but when we do not avail ourselves to the kind of help that we actually need, we make the process 10 times more difficult than it has to be.
So, for example, maybe you've just begun on this interior journey maybe. Or maybe you've been listening to this podcast for a while and maybe other podcasts, and you're becoming more aware of the importance of making the interior journey, but you find it hard to begin. You find it hard to actually take action.
One of the reasons could be, well, maybe you're alone; and it's hard to get started when you're on your own. Human beings were not created to just, you know, live on our own. We are relational creatures. And something as important as making this interior journey of healing and growing in authenticity really requires us to draw on the support of another human being.
Right. We need to have someone else who is also making this journey to share the process with. So, have you invested in resources to support that interior journey? I think for me, one of the blessings that I have is somehow that, from the very beginning, even though nobody really told me that it was important to get support, I always had this instinct that I need to make sure I have support structures in place, and that I needed someone to guide me.
Someone who's further along the journey– someone who understands this road ahead better than I do, right? – Someone who has wisdom that I can tap on and who can hold space for me, hear me out, understand me. And I realized that in order for me to grow at different points of my interior journey, the kind of resource – the kind of person that would really be helpful for me were different.
So, for example, one kind of a resource that would help us on a journey would be having a companion. Right, or more than one. And by companion, I don't just mean a friend or someone that you can talk to about your struggles. I mean, that is important, right? And we can have people that we can share our struggles with, but it's very different when that other person is also making that same journey.
So, when I use the term companion, I am more selective. I mean someone that understands because they are also making that same journey as you are. Right, and so, you can grow together with a companion – someone who is a peer; as in someone who's close to also where you are in the journey. So, we need companions. But beyond companions, we also need expert guidance.
You know, we need expert guidance in the form of – for example, in my own journey, I have had spiritual directors, I've seen a counsellor. I don't have a coach per se, but I've had people who served as mentors. So, these are all examples of a person that was able to provide me with some kind of expert guidance and help.
I think the unfortunate thing is that for a lot of people, we don't really prioritize investing in this kind of expert help for our interior journey. And by investing, I mean both in terms of investing our time, as well as investing our money. Right, if you think about it's become quite common for people to pay for something like having a personal trainer, right?
Or a gym membership. We know the importance of becoming fit and staying healthy– and more and more of my friends are actually willing to consider, or even actually have paid for a personal trainer. So, people would pay for a personal trainer so that they could get fitter faster. And maybe not even just faster but safer– in a safer way without having to make the mistakes that would probably be counterproductive to their goal of actually getting fitter.
Right, so, we have come to a point where I think a lot of people don't really blink an eye to pay for fitness classes or a gym membership, but still think that it's kind of costly to invest an interior journey – like maybe going for therapy or, you know, seeking of an experienced spiritual director, or investing in a spiritual retreat; that is not the same as a vacation.
So, we would pay for holidays and vacations, but we may not be willing to invest the same amount of money and time in a good retreat; where we can tend to our inner life. So, these are sometimes things that we think are good to have, but they are not high enough up in a priority that we will actually take action.
If you really believe that the interior journey is important, and that in fact, it lies at the heart of your total wellness, right – it anchors your physical wellness, your mental wellness, your spiritual wellness. I mean, there's a core – there's a central place in you that needs to be healthy in order to live an integrated life.
If you really believe that, and you know, that being authentic, and becoming more whole is a top priority, then I really suggest that you consider asking yourselves in what ways can you invest in better quality of support for yourself, right. Are there people or courses, what is it – what kind of wisdom can you tap into?
So, this is one area I often invest in for my own growth. I don't hesitate if I come across a really good resource. And now, because so many things have moved online, there are some really high-quality resources that are available on the internet. Things that I may not have been able to attend in the past because it's in another country, and now I can access them because they are made available online.
I set aside time and budget, even though it's not necessarily cheap, for these things. Because I truly believe that these resources support me. I often invite my husband and, you know, other companions who are making the same journey into also investing in these together so we can share with one another and process together.
And these resources helped me professionally as well, because as I deepen my walk– my journey, as I become more equipped to understand what's happening in my interior journey, I also have more to offer the people that I serve. So, those are three ways that we sabotage ourselves, right– by treating ourselves with contempt, by having unrealistic expectations, and by not getting sufficient help that we need.
[00:28:22] PRAXIS PROMPT. LISTEN. PONDER. ACT
So, as we come to the end of this episode, I'm going to invite you to consider the praxis prompts. One: Listen – now, as you listened to this episode, which points maybe resonated with you more? Was there something that jumped out at you?
Two: Ponder – so, after three points that I raised in this episode, which one do you feel is the most relevant for you? Which one of these are more of an issue for you at this point in time? Is it treating yourself with contempt? Is it having unrealistic expectations of yourself, or is it that you are not availing yourself to the resources that you need to make this journey?
Three: Act – so, whichever point you chose, I invite you to consider one thing you can do towards helping yourself. Okay, so, if you decided, for example, that right now, your issue is that you treat yourself with a lot of contempt and disdain, maybe you can think about what is it that you can do to help yourself be kinder to yourself.
Okay, I want to just throw out one suggestion. I mean, it's not the only suggestion for this point, but usually, an inability to be kind to ourselves, especially if we've been trying to be kinder to yourself and you find that you just really struggle with it– it's often a symptom of a deeper underlying wound, okay– a deeper underlying trauma.
And you could really be helped by seeking a professional – like a good counsellor or a therapist, because they can explore with you the underlying causes of why you struggle so hard to treat yourself with kindness. If on the other hand, you decided that it was unrealistic expectations that's tripping you up right now, okay.
And you just, well, maybe it's because you don't really understand the nature of the journey and that's perfectly normal. You could consider seeking out someone who is more experienced, someone who could coach you or mentor you, or someone like a spiritual director, perhaps.
Right, so not just a companion, but someone who is further along the journey and who is familiar with the interior landscape – so to speak. And you can regularly check in with this person, right. It's good to have someone reflect back to you, and remind you of what normal is, so that you can be at ease, knowing that whatever pace you're going at and whatever it is that you're encountering, that it has a place in the journey.
It can be very reassuring for you. And having someone reflect that back to you and reassure you can also help you begin to have more realistic expectations of what this journey is like. And if you decided that what's really holding you back right now is that you're not availing yourself to the help that you need, then I invite you to, you know, spend some time and consider what's one way you can invest in finding better support for yourself.
Beyond seeking a person that could provide expert guidance, is there maybe some kind of course that you want to take, or could there be good books that, you know, you could read?
There is so much knowledge and wisdom out there if we really are interested in learning how to support ourselves better. So, I hope that this episode has been of practical use for you. I just thought that at this point, maybe this is a good time to give you some tips as to how you might be making the journey more difficult for yourself.
I mean, it's something that I learned through experience, and I think in many ways you're going to have to experience it yourself as well, but maybe you're not aware that that's what's happening. And that's why I hope that today's episode will go some way in helping you recognize and be able to name, perhaps, some of what your experiencing.
If you have any questions that you would like to ask regarding the points that I've raised today, please leave me a voicemail. You can actually go to my website: becomingmepodcast.com, which is my podcast website. And there's a little tab there where you can actually leave me a voicemail, or you can write me via email.
I would actually love to know what the challenges are that you're going through right now. And I would love to have the opportunity to speak into those situations. So, that's it for today's episode. I look forward to connecting with you again in the next one.
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.
The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingmepodcast.com and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!