Devin Brooks

The way you treat yourself has an effect on your entire life.

Treating yourself right equals greater confidence, a greater sense of ability, and a happier life. I'm not just talking about self-love, though that's just as important: I'm talking about the little patterns you may not even realize you have that secretly block progress.

It took me a long time to come to terms with some of the attitudes that held me back. Some of those habits held me back for years. If it wasn't for a friend laying down some hard truth, I'm not sure I still wouldn't be wrestling with them now.

Now, don't freak out. You don't have to magically get rid of these habits today. In fact, I still struggle with some of them, but knowing and being able to identify patterns is one of the most important steps towards change. Self-awareness equals self-improvement.

I've listed 5 patterns that may seem innocent, but are actually the foundations of a stunted life.

1. you're not generous enough

Everyone deserves generosity, including yourself. Now I'm not saying that you're a bad person. Far from it, but sometimes we get way too focused on our dreams, our accomplishments, our goals.

Generosity, whether it's buying someone a cup of coffee, volunteering a few hours a week, or taking the time to compliment ourselves, is great for the soul:

Generous acts trigger the reward center of our brains, giving us a high not unlike the high of ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll.’ Seriously.
— Tasha Eurich, Entrepreneur

Generosity means that you're okay living with less, and that's a great thing. Generosity may even expand your life.

I used to volunteer at a center that supplied food for the terminally ill. When my schedule became too full, I stopped going. When my availability opened back up, I still didn't go back. Why? Too much to do, too little time.

I was too focused on myself. I know that I missed opportunities to reach out and connect with others, and let's face it, even face to face contact away from the computer screen is a kind of generosity. 

You have time. You can make time, for yourself and others. I recently joined an Eco Farm, where I help grow crops for those with food insecurity. I also make times for myself every week to reflect, relax, take pride in my work, and let go of my mistakes.  

My stress is significantly less, my confidence is high, and my accomplishments increased. I feel a connection to the world I wouldn't otherwise have. Even better, I feel that the time I take to reach out and help myself and others puts me in the grounded mindset to realize my dreams. If I can help others, if I can make a difference here and now, there's nothing stopping me from making my own dreams into a reality.

You don't have to go over the moon and beyond to be generous. Take the time each week to see how you could contribute now. Even a compliment goes a long way.

Generosity is good karma. Generosity is connection, opportunity, and a chance for the warm and fuzzies. Generosity strengthens your character. Start now. You'll be amazed at how your life blooms. 


2. You sweat the small stuff

Have you ever freaked out over being stuck in traffic? Spilling your cup of coffee? Forgetting to turn on the AC?

Been there, done that. Let me tell you: it's not good for you. Focusing on the blunders that don't matter add to your stress, and chronic stress isn't so good for your heart:

The longer the stress lasts, the worse it is for both your mind and body. You might feel fatigued, unable to concentrate or irritable for no good reason, for example. But chronic stress causes wear and tear on your body, too.
— American Psychological Association

Believe it or not, sweating the small stuff can be a type of habit. I'm guilty of it. I would throw my hands up in the air and assume that I was being punished for something (yes, I'm a little dramatic sometimes). 

You can't control the small details of life. There's good news, though: sweating the small stuff can be unlearned. All you have to do is take along a few stress releasors, and ramp up your common sense. 


Giving yourself some perspective

Sometimes all it takes is a comparison. Life can always be worse than the little things. Remind yourself that your energy is wasted on something that isn't important in the bigger picture.

Venting, but with a limit

It's fine to get out your frustrations, but set a limit, and then let it go. Want to vent to your friend? Ten minutes, tops. 

Find a solution

Sometimes you can avoid the small things: when possible, work through your stress by thinking of how the next time around you don't, say, leave your car keys in the car.

A stress ball

But, actually, seriously. Sometimes releasing tension is a physical process. Try it out.

Positive Affirmations

You've allowed yourself to drop into a bad mood, and you have the power to reverse it. Remind yourself of the positivity you want to carry around. Make a list of no less than three powerful affirmations, and repeat these to yourself at least five times in. Deep breaths each time.


3. You worry too much

In the wise words of Ray LaMontagne:

Worry, worry, worry, worry
Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone
— Trouble, Ray LaMontagne

Just like sweating the small stuff, there are things in life you cannot and will not avoid. Trying to outsmart them or anticipate them will fail.

Besides, with all the time you spend worrying over what may or may not happen, you're missing your own life. And just like sweating the small stuff again, worrying too much causes undue stress and havoc on your body and mind. This can lead to fatigue, illness, a lack of concentration, and other unfortunates. 

One way you can try and appease your worrying is through planning. A weekly planner is a great way to set goals and make sure you reach them. 

Self-care, mindfulness, and relaxation are other methods of stress and worry relief. Scheduling out a block of time every day and every week to practice unwinding (because yes, sometimes you actually have to practice this) will do wonders for your peace of mind.

If worry and anxiety are very bad, then I would suggest seeking professional help. There's nothing wrong with this. You would be amazed at how many people you admire who have gone to therapy. I went myself when I felt I wasn't able to cope with the weight of what I wanted to accomplish and felt isolated from other support systems.


4. Your goals aren't realistic

One factor that puts a lynchpin in many, many dreams?

Dreaming for the wrong reason.

Many women will start on a journey with goals and expectations that aren't realistic, and aren't fulfilling.

Take, for example, fame. A lot of us want to be acknowledged for our work, but there is no guarantee that we will (I'm thinking of many of the women in history whose contributions have been attributed to a man or have been wiped from history all together, thank you very much). 

Many achievements, like fame, are outside forces. These accomplishments are determined by other people, not ourselves.

Instead, you should be focusing on what makes you happy and brings you balance without the need of outside validation. I think Nicolas Cole says it the best:

Instead of seeking validation, what you need to seek is exploration.
— nicolas cole, medium

You are everything you need to be to live a great life. Your goals should be a reflection of the dreams you made before anyone or anything made you think you needed something outside of yourself.

When I began seriously writing, it wasn't for recognition (although that would be nice if someone told me they loved my work). I write because I have never been more passionate about anything else in my life than creating stories. I write because it brings me joy.

While I absolutely think about the logistics of building an income-generating business from writing, I don't stress over the specifics of fame and fortune. I instead obsess over producing my best work, studying, reading, editing. The journey is what makes me happy.

Success is what you make of it. You are brilliant because you say so. Don't do it for approval. Don't do it for fans. Do it for yourself. Love the journey. Let the rest be a pleasant perk.


5. You don't give yourself a break

Now let's talk about the mistakes you make yourself. Have you ever punished yourself over a tiny misstep?

Breathe. It's okay.

You've already got enough on your plate. I certainly do. I used to pick on myself for even the smallest blunders. Not only did it increase my stress tenfold, but it made me feel incapable of completing tasks, and plummeted my confidence.

In fact, at one point it got so bad that I let other people's criticisms get into my head. Then I stopped writing for four years.

I make mistakes. You will make mistakes, too. Don't worry about it. It's better to accept that you've made a misstep and then move on. When you focus on every little thing that goes wrong, you lock yourself up while you try to avoid the future.

Mistakes are a part of life, and a part of progress.

Giving yourself a break is about more than mistakes. It's also about allowing your body time for rest. I know it's tempting to go full speed ahead until you drop, but burnout is real, and it's not pretty:

Left unchecked, burnout can wreak havoc on your health, happiness, relationships and job performance.
— learnvest, forbes

In fact, according to this article, an alarming number of women experience burnout before age 30. 

Ways to combat burnout? Take it easy. Take time to surround yourself with people who love and support you. Put your health and your peace of mind before the job or project.

We all want to get where we're going faster, but if you're sprinting without any break in sight, you're probably on your way to burnout. Once you get it, you'll find a lack of motivation and energy for your work, and a hard road to recovery.

It's not worth it: take a break.


Do you see any of these patterns in yourself? What do you do to overcome them?