Great at working for others, but suck at working for yourself?
Updated: Sep 12, 2021
*The information in this blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Jasmine Eddy, AMFT is not establishing a therapeutic relationship with readers and this information is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed mental health professional.*
For many of us, it’s much easier to find the fire and energy to complete projects, tasks, and goals that are in service of others. Whether it’s running errands for a loved one, hustling through projects at work, or logging tons of volunteer hours for organizations that matter to us, we are willing and able to get it done. So, why does it feel impossible to work on our own projects, errands, and goals? Paying closer attention to our thoughts and our bodies will give us some clarity around the source of our procrastination or motivation blocks.
You know that feeling you get when you’re able to do something for someone and it makes their day? No, really. What’s that feeling? Next time you’re lending a hand, take a moment to check in with yourself and explore it. Try to identify the emotions you’re experiencing and, if it feels accessible, notice any body sensations that stand out. Are there any thoughts coming to you? There’s a lot of valuable information to gather from your embodied experience. It’ll also give you something to compare to the experience of getting things done for yourself.
What comes up for you as you prepare to do something for yourself? You know that finishing that project you’ve been working on or completing that list of errands will make the future you a lot less stressed out. However, you can’t seem to muster up the energy to get it done. Take a moment to notice what you’re thinking when “project time” rolls around. Is there a sense of dread? Guilt? Fear? Really pay attention to what you’re feeling. Do you feel tired all of the sudden? Is there pressure in your chest? This is all information that gives you insight into what’s lying under the surface when it comes to work that matters to you.
So what do you do with this info?
Once you’ve done your self-reflection, there’s a lot you can do with this knowledge. First, you could do absolutely nothing with this information. Just taking the time to examine your thoughts and physical sensations could make all the difference. Self-awareness alone may be enough to help you push through that block. However, if you’re not noticing a shift in your ability to show up for yourself, there are some other things you can try.
Negative To Positive
It may be time for some mindset work. For example, let's say you're working on a new novel. There’s an upcoming deadline, you've hit a wall, and the work is dragging. After some introspection, you realize that a thought that you're sitting with is "I can't top my last book. People will see that I only had one good story in me." Find a way to turn the negative thought into a positive one, without disregarding the underlying fears or emotions. “I’m feeling the pressure to deliver a book that is as good or better than my last. I’ve learned so much from writing the last book and trust my process. I’ve grown as a writer and have more stories to tell.”
Positive affirmations are another great self-talk tool to help build self-esteem and self-worth. Perhaps you’ve realized that working on your own goals and dreams brings up insecurities. For example, some people feel selfish if they’re spending a lot of time, energy, or money on themselves. It’s also common to feel that you’re not good enough at whatever it is you’re doing to justify the effort. Using affirmations to remind yourself of your greatness is a wonderful way to shift out of a negative mindset. Feel free to say the affirmations to yourself throughout the day. It may be helpful to stick them on a post-it note on a mirror, or even create a screen saver or background on your phone or computer. Here are some examples of affirmations:
I am worthy of happiness and success.
I am talented.
I love myself more and more each day
How do I actually get the work done?
Once you’ve done your mindset work, hopefully, you’ll feel like you have the energy and motivation to work on your own projects. However, the logistics of how, where, and when might pop up as a separate issue. Here are some ways to make time and space for your work.
Smaller Chunks of Time
Dividing your projects into smaller chunks of time can have many benefits. If you’re a busy person, it may be easier to dedicate 30 minutes to an hour a day for your work than it is to find a solid block of two or more hours. Creating smaller project blocks might also provide a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes the small wins add up to a big boost in your self-confidence. Setting aside a shorter amount of time can also help those of us who struggle with feelings of selfishness when we take time for ourselves. Taking shorter periods of personal time more frequently may feel more palatable from a logistical and emotional standpoint.
Join a Group...or Start One
There are groups and communities for just about everything these days. Whether online or in-person, there’s bound to be a group of people who want the peer support and accountability that comes with socializing around their passion projects. Entrepreneurs can find or create mastermind groups. Artists and creatives come together and create and critique their work together. Meetup.com is always a great place to start your search for a community, but a simple google search for your project/work + “groups” may bring up even more options. Are the search results coming up with limited options? If you have the time in your schedule and the energy, consider starting your own group.
The ability to provide excellent work or service to those around us proves that we have what it takes to give that to ourselves. If you’re finding it hard to get started or work through the things that mean a lot to you, it might be worth it to try some of these tips. The resistance is there for a reason and it has something to say.
Would you like some support around your motivation blocks? Consider working with a licensed professional. If you’re a California resident, I’d be glad to work with you. Feel free to contact me for a free 20-minute consultation to see if we’re a good fit.