I have a little angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. They fight constantly. They both want to be right. They both want to be heard, but in the end I can only listen to one of them.
But the thing is, mine don’t care very much about my actions most of the time. Their target is my thoughts.
My little angel tells me that I am innately wonderful, that I deserve to be happy, that being angry won’t solve anything, and that I’m doing okay in life. She never raises her voice.
My devil contradicts all of that. He tells me I don’t deserve to be loved and that no matter how much work I put into something it will never be good enough. He points out all my flaws and makes sure I notice when other people seem to have it easier than me. He tells me my kids won’t be happy in a messy house and neither will my husband. And so on.
He’s loud. He’s persuasive. He’s often impossible to ignore.
A few months ago, my husband and I had a small argument. So small, I don’t even remember now what it was about. But this was in the lowest time during my depression when I felt completely broken. I somehow convinced myself it was a really big deal. After everyone had gone to bed, I sat on the bathroom floor and cried. For hours.
I sat in there alone, listening to my angel and my devil fight. I listened to my angel try to reason with me and reassure me. She told me that my husband loved me and if I would just go talk to him I would feel better.
But I also listened to my devil. He told me my husband was tired from working so much and would be mad if I woke him up. He told me we would just fight more and make it worse. He told me I should leave and my family would be better off with someone else.
I kept cycling back to the thought, “Why doesn’t my husband wake up? Doesn’t he know I’m upset? Why hasn’t he noticed I’m not in bed?”
Eventually exhaustion took over and I went to sleep.
The next morning I confronted my husband, we talked about the fight, and it literally took 30 seconds to solve. And of course, the first thing he said was, “Why didn’t you wake me up??”
So I told him everything. We talked so long he was late for work, but he lovingly listened to me pour my heart out. I told him about the things I had been struggling with on the inside and how real and intense the darkness had become. I told him about personal doubts and fears that I had never shared with anyone else.
It was incredibly difficult to say out loud, but also liberating and cathartic.
My husband reassured me that we were in this together. He also expressed some concerns he had been holding onto about the way I had been acting lately.
It was the worst night of my life, but as with most challenges, it brought with it one of the biggest blessings. I had confronted my biggest fear and I had bonded with my husband in a way I never imagined was possible. And I finally admitted I needed help. I finally started the healing process and took the steps necessary to conquer and control my depression. It was something I desperately needed.
I started seeing a therapist. She validated a lot of my feelings, which was reassuring, but also kindly pointed out some destructive things I had been doing.
We talked about how I feel like I am never on top of the housework. It’s my job and I am never satisfied with my performance. I know that it affects the entire family and feel it is my responsibility to make it perfect.
She asked me a very important question. “Is the cleanliness of your home a yardstick you are using to measure your self-worth?”Is the cleanliness of your home a yardstick you are using to measure your self-worth? Click To Tweet
I know it sounds cheesy, but a light bulb went off above my head. I’m not kidding.
We discovered that somewhere along the line I had started to believe that the appearance of my home would be seen as an outward reflection of how I am doing on the inside. I really believed that to be a good wife and mother, my home should have super cute decorations and be crazy clean. And I never seemed to achieve that, therefore I was failing, and everyone could see it.
I started to notice other ways that I was “measuring” my worth. I thrive on compliments and positive feedback, so when my husband came home and asked how my day was, I would rattle off a list of things I accomplished. Subconsciously, I was hoping to be congratulated or something. I wanted him to be proud of me.
When I told my therapist this, she said point blankly, “It’s not your spouse’s job to fill your bucket.”
I stuttered something like, “I know, but…”
She cut me off and added, “you know that, right?”
I stared at her for a minute and let it sink in.
I realized that even if my husband followed me around, complimenting everything I did, it wouldn’t have mattered. He was not the problem.
My husband is my rock. He may not understand all my craziness, but he does his best, and he is always there for me. He consistently tells me I’m beautiful and that he loves me. He surprises me with things I like, sings to me, and plans amazing dates. If it were up to him to fill my bucket, it would be overflowing.
I have to know and accept for myself that I am enough just the way I am. Cracked and flawed, loving and compassionate, messy and a procrastinator, smart and analytical, and everything else that makes up who I am.
I need to listen to the angel on my shoulder and tell the devil to shut up.
I need to put the yardstick away and fill my own bucket.I need to put the yardstick away and fill my own bucket. Click To Tweet
It’s not easy to tell myself I’m doing well or that I deserve joy, but I’m getting better at it. It helps to find little ways to take breaks or treat myself regularly. (See yesterday’s post about Self-Care.)
What are some yardsticks that you use and need to put away?
What are some ways that you can fill your own bucket?
If you think you might benefit from therapy, check out my post about what therapy is really like HERE.