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Self-congratulation. Tuesday May 2, 2017

Being self-congratulatory is an unattractive characteristic, huh?
To excess, perhaps, but I have a theory...

A reminder on my phone at the end of every day says "Well done, you've done your best all day."

I was asked "But what if you haven't?"

Not able to articulate it at that point, these are the thoughts I've had since.

Ten years ago, I had intensive psychoanalytic psychotherapy – three sessions a week with a blank screen (ugh!). Wondering what on earth was going on, I used my librarianly skills and, with the resources of a university at my disposal, I read a lot of articles from psychotherapy and psychoanalytic journals and books.

Four lever-arch-files-worth printed, many more read; a head full of confusion, a heart full of terror.

But one idea has stuck with me.

A good-enough mother encourages her baby and congratulates him/her for every tiny thing; a smile, a sneeze, a kick of the legs, a burp, a word, a wobbly step.

Wouldn't it be a good thing to give congratulations to ourselves? Even when we're not managing very much? Who are we comparing ourselves with? And who is judging what is 'much' and 'best' anyway?

For me, it's my inner critic/saboteur who judges me and she can be the harshest person I know.

Surely we all have different capacities and limits. For example, a man in group therapy was able to get to the session each week – it was often the only time he left the house or spoke. Or a lady at church, who has five children, two of whom are twins, when asked how she managed when they were little, said she used to tell herself "If I get nothing done today, I've done well."

More recently, I've been listening to Kristin Neff's fantastic self-compassion CDs. On the final track on the final CD, she talks about setting intentions. She suggests starting the day by lighting a candle and, in effect, planting a seed and asking for what we need.

I'm trying this by saying "May I be my most self-compassionate, wisest, most assertive and decisive self."

And by congratulating myself for doing my best at the end of every day, it sets the intention to do my best. It encourages me and the hope is that that the seed will grow, that it will spur me on..

Self-compassion isn't letting oneself off the hook, or letting oneself do things that are unhealthy or not for one's own good, but it accepts the reality that sometimes just getting through the day is doing one's best.

Being human can be tough – why not encourage and congratulate oneself for those little things? Why not set intentions to do our best, dangling a carrot rather than threatening with a stick? Who knows how much it will amount to in the end?

And hopefully this theory hasn't turned into a lecture – that most certainly isn't my intention!

The Librarian
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Sarah Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 5:59am

Well said! Guess what? I have done that too! I have set alarms on my phone to go off every two hours every day... they remind me of positive things - to keep focus the thoughts will pass and if I think of a new good affirmation or something I want to change/remember, I edit the reminders.... the last reminder of day is 'well done you've had another good day, tomorrow is another opportunity to do that again'. Some days resonate more than others, some days the reminders don't mean much, but I have committed to at least reading them. I KNOW for a fact that to make changes, it's repetitition repetition repetition. Another phrase I have that is so true is: one thing leads to another so choose wisely, also fake it till you make it is good! It is a fact that positive thought trumps negative... for every negative thought I have (there are a lot!) I make myself re-word it to positive... it's working now day by day my mental health is improving and I'm just not getting down for long. One day at a time :)

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:15pm

Dear Sarah, Thank you! It's good to hear that you do the same - it's not that I'm unrealistic about things I don't do well - it's just encouragement - and some days, it means absolutely nothing but it's the steady drip and the steady intentions that matter. Keep going! Keep Trying! One step at a time... And all the best with it.

Orangeblossom Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 7:37am

Hi The Librarian Thanks very much for your blog which was very helpful & encouraging. Appreciate it lots. Some of us tend to be some of our harshest critics.

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:18pm

Thank you, Orangeblossom. It's odd how we turn on ourselves, isn't it? I've turned mine into a character, and made cartoons of her and the conversations I'd like to have with her - I'm always courteous and compassionate with her, in the way I'd like her to treat me. All the best.

Anne Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 8:04am

Thank you for your blog Librarian - it was timely and needed. As I sit here and wonder if I have it in me today to do what's needed; you remind me that I am doing it!

One step at a time; one small action; one more choice to not react or the kindness of accepting this is good enough...

Thank you x

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:20pm

Thank you, Anne - I'm glad it struck a chord. I often wonder if I have it in me at the beginning of the day and when I look back at the end of the day - I've always done something - and that is good enough. All the best

LP Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 8:06am

Hi TL,
Your blog is great, not lecturing at all, very encouraging.
I do this quite a bit and do wonder what is behind it for me. Have I learnt a good positive strategy? Am I trying to impress, please or convince someone or myself that I'm doing well? Or is it the inner critic being judgemental? Does it matter? Despite the doubts I do it anyway because my gut feeling is that it's good and right. I think you are right, I'm looking after my inner child in a way that I never had and encouraging others that however small steps forward are possible.
I havent done my graph in a while, but your blog has encouraged me TL, a good way to start this springtime 4 day week! Thank you! Wishes for goodwill from the inside to all. LP xxx

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:23pm

Ha yes! The voices that try to shout it down; mine bang on about arrogance and pride coming before a fall and all the other ways of undermining my strategy - but I've got to the point where I'm going to do it anyway, that it's my life's work and that even if it makes me feel better once, that'll be just fine by me. Yes, it's all about nurturing ourselve and giving ourselve what we might have missed. Thank you for your comments and for you wishes. I wish you all the best.

Hopeful One Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 8:30am

Hi Librarian- thank you for reminding me to not let that Inner Critic play HIS old 'tape' but instead to play MY new 'tape' which is considerably more user friendly and compassionate. Part of the new 'tape ' includes congratulating oneself no matter how small the achievement. It also includes a reward ,non alcoholic if possible but a glass is allowed if the achievement is spectacular (in my view not others). However increasingly I find that the reward for doing anything is having done it in the first place.

My local radio has just told me how powerful a tool laughter is for our mental health not only individually but also for groups. So I invite you to share these laughs with me today.

To continue my series.....

Notice in a farmer's field:
Message on a leaflet:
On a repair shop door:

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 10:04am

thank you HO. I have been enjoying your notices and I really needed these this morning.

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:26pm

Thank you, Hopeful One. I'm trying to get away from material rewards - may they be 'stuff' or edible pleasures - and build up my internal stock of rewards. And yes, completion is a reward in itself? Things left unaddressed tend to go on and on and on don't they? I've been enjoying your recent notices... All the best

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 10:15am

Hi Librarian and others
This looks an interesting blog which I am sure I will get more out of when more in the mood but everything is going awry over the last day or two so I hope you will excuse me if I have a rant today. I may be longish so I'm going to split it into several messages as I can just imagine it all disappearing into the ether (which would probably cause much swearing although I suppose I ought to see it as one of those relaxation exercises where all your issues float away in a balloon). Feel free to skip the subsequent messages if you can't quite cope with it today, although if anyone can give me input on my last message that would be appreciated!
love TF x

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 10:27am

So here are the minor things that are piling up. Headlice, grumpy husband, home computer playing up which always makes me anxious as I'm never sure what is a fix and what risks giving it a virus. I think I have more or less fixed it but my daughter and I both use this computer and I have messed up her heart shaped arrangement of icons - which given she is not kindly disposed to me at the moment anyway (see below) is not good. Virtual connection to work playing up so I can't work from home at the moment as I am supposed to for a couple of hours on Tuesdays and IT nearly an hour late with the promised update on this. Not able to go into the office instead at the moment as my groceries are due. Actually shopping just arrived relatively early in slot - feels like the first thing that has gone right today. I had better get on and put it away and then find out what is now going on at work and get into the office if need be. More later. Thanks TF x

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 11:24am

Didn't actually get to the end of the list of everyday issues I wish I didn't have to handle right now. There is an issue I have to handle at work with someone I line manage which is going to come to a head this week.

The Gardener Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 10:32am

HO - those notices - always difficult to believe that people actually put them up! TF - awry not in it. Awful night - Mr G, storms, internet down, taxi too early, Mr G in foul mood. Worst, having eventually got to sleep before the alarm would sound heard fracas in street. Mr G - who claims he can't walk and can't see - had left bedroom without my hearing, gone downstairs without stick, opened kitchen door and yelled for help. Lady opposite, three children to get to school, came and calmed him - I came downstairs in extreme disarray - then her car would not start. Anyway, self-congratulation. My 'mentor' psychiatric nurse who 'keeps me afloat' said that as the situation worsens I 'rise to the occasion' and bend my mind to sorting it. How to stop Mr G getting out now - daren't just take keys out of door - he'd probably break the windows. Stopping him getting downstairs at all? Learning next stage of Alzheimers - the sufferer may seemed 'spaced out' then does things which are, of course, potentially dangerous. Between you here (this blog very apt, thanks Librarian) and all my helpers, I am managing to convince myself that I am doing my best - in some aspects a very good 'best' and can stop self-castigating (I hope).

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 11:21am

Hi Gardener I wasn't meaning for a minute to compare what I have to deal with to what you are coping with. I am also aware that there are lots of people who are coping with full blown depression who are also having a much worse time than me. Whereas I have just messed some stuff up between me and my daughter (see below) which I can hopefully set straight but which has sent me into a bit of a gloom and which has made all the minor bits feel like too much is being flung at me right now. Just thought moodscope might be a safe place to let off some steam really. And yes you certainly should be congratulating yourself on how well you cope. Love TF x

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:29pm

Hello Gardener, supporting yourself when you're supporting other is vital - it is not possible to support people when you are in deficit yourself. And Tutti Frutti - don't compare problems - we are all dealing with stuff, and we are all valid in our struggles. All the best

Lexi Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 11:19am

TL-thank you. I just finished my morning meditation and the thought came to me that I can be more compassionate to myself. Then I read your blog. So I think I'll use your ideas and Sarah's and start leaving myself reminders to be kinder to myself :)

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:32pm

A therapist suggested leaving suportive comments and reminders to be Mindful in unexpected places so i haoppen upon them, eather than getting inured to them. I'm working trough a very good book on Self-Compassion - A Year of Self-Compassion by Amanda Super - it has weekly reflections and quotes from compassion exponets and places to fill in your responses to the reflections, as well as asking questions on how to weave compassion into your life - invaluable. Anothe steady drip drip drip... Be kind and best wishes!

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 3:44pm

I read a good one called The compassionate mind. I can't recall the author I am afraid and I have lent it to a friend I thought was in need so I can't check. Love TF x

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 4:47pm

It's by Paul Gilbert - a really great book! My sister has worked with him and says he practices what he preaches, and is the most compassionate man amongst the many compassionate people she's met (she's a psychologist so there are many!)

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 11:58am

So the more major issue I have is that I have upset my daughter. I have been a bit worried about her eating for a few years. She does eat but we have been told several times that she is underweight which is probably just genetics from my husband's side of the family. But my daughter is a very fussy eater, who likes everything separate on her plate and is prone to forgetting to eat lunch. She is also a dancer, has made remarks about liking being small and occasionally about not wanting to grow up, and is very academic. And I worry that seeing me always trying to keep my weight in check to avoid overweight and my genes for mental health generally won't be good.

Anyway on Saturday I made some sandwiches for her to take to dance as it's a 2.5 hour class with a lunch break. She didn't get a chance to eat them at dance and she was going on to a party so she said she'd eat them on the way. On Monday I was tidying up and found that she had eaten less than half of what Id given her. Unfortunately without really thinking it through I went and demanded to know why she hadn't eaten her lunch and said "you aren't doing this deliberately are you?" and she was horrified. And even my apology went a bit wrong and my reassurance that it wasn't a comment on her looks came out negatively rather than positively and I was also stupid enough to bring up the genetics and mental health thing. Not surprisingly she is freezing me out and snapping that she doesn't want to talk about it whenever I try to say something to help. This is probably about the best behaviour I can really expect from a teenager under the circumstances but I am worried about what on earth I've done and feeling like a pretty crap mother right now. (Less worried about the eating though.)

Sorry for hijacking the blog today.
Love TF x

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:35pm

Is there a way you can encourage yourself in this? Is there a way you can forgive yourself for being human? Can you remind yourself that as a mother all you need to be is 'good enough'? (John Bowlby is excellent on good enough mothering and well worth a read) All the best for a tricky situation.

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 3:49pm

Thanks Librarian that's helpful. I will look up the book. Love TF x

Marmaladegirl Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 4:14pm

Dear Tutti Frutti - I have read your various posts today and I am sending you lots and lots of love and a cyber hug. I think you are doing a fantastic job (you obviously have lots on your plate so, like the mother in the Librarian's blog, even if you do nothing, you have done a lot by surviving the day. Also, when is "nothing" really nothing?) Try to see how well you are doing and be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend. In family life, everything is always changing, so whatever difficulties you are experiencing today will have gone soon (although something else will no doubt take their place). However, I find it helpful to say "This too will pass..." Let us know how your day is going / has gone. Love and best wishes, Marmaladegirl xx

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 5:25pm

Thanks Marmalade Girl I went into the office for a couple of hours and as the issue with the home working still isn't fixed it was worth it. It is a silly ratio of work to commuting but i wanted to be sure to be home on time to deliver my daughter's ballet stuff to her as she doesn't have time to get home and change before the class and only takes her stuff into school if she knows I won't be home. It did mean I could get on with some work which I feel better for. And I have told my boss that I will not work at all tomorrow (my other very short day working at home) since the IT issue still isn't fixed. My daughter seemed much? as usual when I delivered the ballet stuff this afternoon, although it is usually pretty much a "hi, bye" exchange so I perhaps shouldn't try to read too much into it. So all in all things are better than they were this morning. Hugs much appreciated. Love TF x

Marmaladegirl Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 9:22pm

Dear TF - Yay! You replied! You are a very devoted mother and a very hard-working person, just don't forget to look after yourself as well (where would those people that rely on you be if you couldn't do it? Self-care is for them really!) Take care TF. MG xx

Anonymous Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 12:31pm

Thanks Librarian! It definitely helps me to be less critical of myself and of others (especially family members both present and past) to think that all of us are/were doing our best at all times. It gives me more peace. Thanks again x

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 2:53pm

I'm glad it's helping. I realised very early that adults were very human and had foibles and difficulties of their own, so I had a distanced perspective and low expectations and started working on it in my teens.

No one can meet our needs perfectly, even as babies, and, as adults, only we have a chance of knowing what our needs really are and finding a way of meeting them.

Feeling encourageed is a need I have, and I'm not going to hang around waiting for it to come from others any longer! And often we spot it coming from others more powerfully if we're working on a need within ourselves. I couldn't take compliments before I accepted there were some things I did that were OK, if not good. I think that's the CBT idea of only hearing what we're expecting to hear and discounting the rest...

All the best

The Gardener Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 4:34pm

Dear TF - no 'judgement' or 'comparison' intended. Being pedantic, I think - things going 'awry' I see as aggravating, out of place, 'one damned thing after another'. My husband's antics this morning were just more than 'awry'. And any aggravation can seem major to some and minor to others. I remember with great clarity, when depressed, that two unwashed cups on the draining board would be more than I could face. Also to TF - daughters! having gone through the teen-age years of 3 boys and two girls, you've no hope of being right - but does not stop you worrying. One daughter lived on salami sandwiches for months. Both daughters adopted - this one confessed to Mr G that she hated me as a teen-ager and felt awful because she was adopted and ought to feel 'grateful'. We got a godmother, I think, to explain that most teenage girls disagreed with their Mums on principle, even if not going as far as hating them. We are best of friends now. I had your same worries when she was in her 40's! In a very unhappy relationship, eating badly, putting on weight, binge drinking and never going out. Over, thank goodness - she is now in super form. Trouble is (really preaching now) trying to 'get round' a teenager in a strop only makes things worse.

Tutti Frutti Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 5:08pm

Thanks Gardener I will try and remember to keep my head down for a while and stick to innofensive things like offering lifts and delivering dance gear. Hopefully my daughter will come round of her own accord. Love TF x

Mary Wednesday Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 8:17pm

This is a super post, and in fact, tomorrow's post now follows on from it, so many thanks for the inspiration! I suppose tomorrow's post is my very long comment on this - so you will have to wait a few hours! ;)

The librarian Tue, May 2nd 2017 @ 9:17pm

Thank you, Mary. I look forward to reading it... (and hope I might meet you on the 20th...)

All the best

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