When I’m heading off-course —and I’m talking about internally off-course—there are certain clear signs in my life, externally. I say “clear” because they’re very evident when I’m paying attention and staying on the lookout for them. But they’re also easy to ignore should I so choose.
And for a long time, I did so choose.
I turned a blind eye, ignoring the blatant warning signs flashing in front of me. I did it with the best of intentions, of course—“I’m too busy caring for others to slow down,” for instance—but nonetheless, ignoring the signs inevitably lands me in an unhealthy place.
Here are three common red flags in my life that, when I pay heed to them, help steer me back to the best and healthiest version of myself:
I know I’m not the only one who tells myself things I would never dare say to someone else:
You’re not enough.
If you only knew what people really think of you…
You’ll never succeed.
Seriously, the messages I keep on loop in my head about myself can be so destructive at times. And it’s a clear sign to me that something is off-kilter in my heart. It signals that my fear and insecurities are rising to the surface. And if I don’t actually engage them and deal with them, my life will become a slave to my fear. And that is not how I want to live.
My husband and I are in the middle of a detox right now. Would you believe it took me FOUR MONTHS to gear myself up for this?! Yep. Because for four months I’ve been telling myself I’ll never make it through. That I just can’t possibly do this. That it’s going to be too hard.
Those are lies. And I finally decided to stop believing them and cling to truth instead.
We need to be careful about our internal language, y’all. We start to believe what we repeatedly hear, so it’s time to change our internal messages to truth instead of lies.
Criticism of Others
Another red flag I’ve discovered in my life is being overly critical of others.
It’s so easy to look at the surface of someone else’s life or a situation in front of us, and—based on very limited knowledge of the facts—come to the worst conclusion about people. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Anything from a mom with a screaming child (as if that’s never been me!) to a dining room table perfectly presented on Instagram (as though I don’t share similar things!) can unleash the Criticism Critter in my head. Whether I say these thoughts out loud or keep them to myself, I’m making a rash judgment and assuming the worst about the people involved.
In her book Rising Strong, Brené Brown talks about choosing to believe that people are doing the best they can. That concept was absolutely life-altering for me. It causes me to pause when I would normally be critical and actually say (sometimes aloud even), “They’re doing the best they can with what they have.”
You know what that does? It develops empathy in me. It allows me to step back and look at the bigger picture and realize there are circumstances I’m unaware of that are contributing factors. It helps me remember to focus on understanding others rather than being understood.
And ultimately, it helps me have a better, healthier, and more positive perspective. Of others, and also of myself.
Hearing myself say “I don’t care” is one of my most obvious red flags.
Say, for instance, a team member comes and asks for my input on a project. There are times, certainly, when I need to empower my staff with the responsibility and authority to just run with something. That’s when I’d respond with something like, “What do you think you should do?”, talk through it with them, and then send them off to make it happen. That’s not what I’m talking about here, though.
I’m asked for input on something that definitely calls for my involvement. And when I hear myself say, “I don’t care at this point… You just decide” I know there’s an enormous red flag waving over my head.
Because the truth is, I do care. I’m just too busy or too overwhelmed or too tired to focus on it in that moment. And when I don’t have time to care, I know I’ve got bigger problems and it’s time to prioritize.
I don’t know about you, but for me, if my day gets too busy, the first thing I’m going to sacrifice is me. But that leads to burnout and exhaustion; it leads me to not care. And even if it’s just a trivial thing I’m saying “I don’t care” about, it starts leaking into others parts of my life. I begin not caring for myself like I need to. I begin not caring for my family like they deserve. I begin not caring for the projects I’m working on like I should.
And so I’ve gotten relentless about not allowing my schedule to get too full, so that I don’t reach that point. I try not to book more than 3 appointments in a day. I’ve been having my Virtual Assistant help me take control of my calendar, delaying things to another day or week or even month when necessary. The world isn’t going to stop turning if I reschedule a doctor’s appointment or conference call!
We have got to take care of ourselves first, in order to avoid slipping into don’t-care mode.
If you don’t have time to care, you’ve got bigger problems.
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What are some red flags in your own life that let you know when you’re internally heading off course? How do you steer back to the best and healthiest version of yourself?