Despite her busy schedule, she invited her three closest friends to lunch. As the day approached, she got out paper and pen to create a menu. “Let’s see, I’ll make homemade chicken salad, organic, of course. I will need to poach a chicken in onion, carrots, and spices, make homemade mayonnaise, and cut up the vegetables for the salad.” She thought parmesan crisps would go well with the salad, so she’d have to shred the cheese and bake those, as well.

Next, she wrote out a shopping list. “Wow, this is going to take a chunk out of our food budget.” Like Scarlett O’Hara, she said, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

She laid it all out in her mind. How would it all look on the table? Would there be contrasting textures, flavors, and colors? What about dessert? What could she offer that would elegantly finish off the meal with coffee or tea? She, herself, doesn’t eat gluten or dairy because they cause inflammation in her body, but what spectacular dessert doesn’t contain one or both of those ingredients? Forget that. She decided to make a homemade chocolate pudding with orange mascarpone whipped cream. Pleasing her guests was more important than her own health.

Of course, her finest china would be utilized – the plates, glasses, teapot and teacups that only make their appearance during these special occasions. They are dusty, however, from sitting in the cupboard, so they will have to be washed before they are placed on the table. She would also have to iron a few table clothes, one or two for the buffet table and one for the dining table. These items went on her ever-growing list of things to do.

In the end, she did it all, but in the process she so exhausted herself that she could not enjoy nor be fully present with her guests. When her guests left, she collapsed into a heap, leaving the cleaning up for later when she had recovered enough energy to do it.

There is nothing wrong with giving your best to those you love. There is nothing wrong with being creative, making beautiful things, or trying to achieve excellence. The world is a better place because of these things. However, a problem can arise when the motivation for doing these things comes from the idealized version of yourselve rather than from your authentic, real place.

Your idealized self

You, like everyone else, can start out with good intentions, but get hijacked by your idealized self, which is the image you have of yourself of what you ideally should be, must be, or ought to be in order to be acceptable to others. This version heaps unrealistic and exhausting expectations upon your head, causing suffering and inauthenticity.

When your true, authentic self only wishes to do good and please others, your perfectionistic, idealized self steps in and says that everything has to be perfect otherwise, it will not be good enough. If it is not perfect, then judgment and criticisms from your inner critic are heaped upon your head.

“The idealized self-image is born out of the imagination and it is quite impossible to actualize. It is a romanticized portrait built on exaggerated self-expectations…

The creation and maintenance of the idealized self is primarily an unconscious maneuver. Riddled with a hounding sense of self-dissatisfaction and contempt, the psyche produces a simple survival scheme: If I am unsatisfied with my actual self, why not retreat into the lab of denial and create an ideal self? Why settle on who I really am? Instead, I can grant my imagination power to manufacture a suitable, though illusory, image. I can then twist my experience so that it matches the portrait I want…As long as the imagination controls how we perceive ourselves, the actual self is off-limits. And when the actual self is off-limits, grace cannot be received in the depths of our being. Instead, we desperately try to earn acceptance.”

Sin, Pride, and Self-Acceptance: The Problem of Identity in Theology & Psychology by Terry D. Cooper

Your True, Authentic Self

Joy is a byproduct of having a deep, long-lasting connection with your true, authentic self. This connection happens when you let go of the ideas, conditions, and expectations of your idealized self, which are not based on who you truly are, but on what you think you need to be in order to be accepted and loved by others. The truth is, there is no one else on the entire earth whose relationship is more important than the relationship you have with yourself because this relationship determines how you relate to everyone else in your life.

How do you do this? You can begin by opening up to your feelings, which, due to stress, trauma, and busy-ness, have been repressed. Surrender to your feelings rather than trying to control them. Slowly open up to them and give yourself space to feel them. Be curious about them. Experiment with just sitting with them. Where do you feel them in your body? In your heart? What do they feel like? This is the beginning of an awareness. This is to invite joy into your life. Being true to yourself will result in being less fearful of the criticisms of your inner critic as well as other people.

Go gently. And be patient.

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When working with me, I will give you the guidance, compassion, and support you need. If you would like to talk about your own experiences with someone who understands, I am only a click away.

Click HERE to book a call with me and learn more about how we can work together. I would love to meet you and hear your story.

I am a certified Mind Body Eating Psychology Coach and am currently studying to become a Biology of Trauma Practitioner. My goal when exhausted women ask, “Why am I so tired all the time?” is to help them explore their story to see what has happened in the past that is draining their energy today. In addition to coaching, blogging, reading, and studying, I am a professional trumpet player. I also enjoy exercising, cooking, gardening, calligraphy, and helping others achieve their goals.

Information in this post is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition.