Over the course of this series on self-care strategies for fear, we’ve:
- Become aware of and named our fears in part 1.
- Separated the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in part 2.
- Spent time enjoying ourselves in part 3.
- Tended our feelings in part 4.
- Pulled the weeds of unhelpful thoughts in part 5.
Let’s round out our gardening metaphor by planting new seeds in the fertile soil!
Once you’ve made space in your garden by pulling the weeds, it’s time to plant new seeds. New seeds are the thoughts and beliefs that you want to cultivate, that will serve you and help you to be your best. You can identify these thoughts by the way they make you feel: empowered, at peace, and motivated.
Creating affirmations is one way to plant new seeds of helpful thoughts.
After identifying the unhelpful weed and pulling it, ask yourself:
“What’s a more empowering, kind, and true version of this story? What else might be going on here?”
Let’s take this unhelpful thought as an example:
“She doesn’t care about my needs.”
I notice that when I think this thought I feel sad, rejected, unimportant, and hurt. Not helpful in aligning me with my values of connection and curiosity. I feel shut down and withdrawn – rather than connected or curious.
So I ask myself, “What’s a more empowering, kind, and true version of this story? What else might be going on here?’ I like to use my journal for these questions, and just free write whatever comes to mind. You could also talk this through with a friend or therapist, or simply think about it throughout the day.
What else might be going on here?
In this scenario where I’m believing “She doesn’t care about my needs,” what else might be going on here is that she might be really focused on her own needs. I’m believing that she should be taking care of my needs – which on second glance I don’t actually agree with. A truer statement might be that I support her in taking care of her own needs, and I support me in taking care of mine.
This makes me curious about how I actually may not have been taking care of my own needs. I’ve been upset that she wasn’t caring for my needs, when in reality I was the one who was prioritizing her needs over my own.
The new seed
A more helpful thought could be:
“I care about my needs,” or “I’m responsible for caring about my own needs.”
Check in with feelings
After identifying new seeds to plant, check out what feelings they spark.
When I think these new thoughts: “I care about my needs,” and “I’m responsible for caring about my own needs,” I feel a softening inside. I feel myself turn back toward myself, instead of being so focused on what the other person isn’t giving me.
I highly recommend printing out a list of feeling words for reference as you do this work.
When I think these new thoughts, I feel more calm, relieved, open-hearted, and curious. I feel more connected to myself, and I actually feel more connected to the other person as well.
Plant the seed
Planting the seed of this new helpful thought means installing it into your operating system, so that it can grow and flourish. This takes time and exposure. Reminders can be helpful!
I’m such a fan of sticky notes and lock screen reminders.
Sticky notes can go on your computer monitor, bathroom mirror, nightstand, kitchen cupboard, dashboard of your car, or anywhere else you spend time during the day.
Whatever will help you keep your new thought top-of-mind so it can grow roots and take hold.
Why isn’t my seed taking hold?
Sometimes a new thought is too much of a stretch for our psyche to believe.
If you read your affirmation or new helpful thought, and you feel emotions or sensations like doubt, resistance, or skepticism, those emotions need tending before your new seed will take root.
Return to part 4 and give space and compassion to these emotions. Sometimes they just need to be witnessed, and they will dissipate on their own. Other times you may want to create a helpful thought that is more believable.
For example, if I felt skeptical when I thought, “I care about my needs,” that may simply not be true yet.
First, I would sit with the emotions that come up. I may feel sad that I haven’t cared about my own needs in the past. I might feel distrustful that I can be counted on to care about my own needs. I may feel doubtful that I can even figure out what my own needs are.
Just naming and witnessing these feelings is powerful. Placing a hand on your chest and imagining what you would say to a friend who was feeling these things can help you find compassion for yourself.
If at this point I decide that I want to find a new thought that’s more accessible or believable, I might play around with a few. Try them on and see how they feel! Some alternate, less-of-a-stretch thoughts might be:
- I’m curious about my needs.
- I’m willing to practice caring about my needs.
- I’m willing to have needs.
When you land on a new thought that feels believable and helpful, then create your reminders and start rehearsing this new thought every chance you get!
The gardening process
Pulling weeds and growing new plants is an ongoing process. Tending to our thoughts as we tend to a garden over time culminates in rich, fertile soil and a vibrant ecosystem of diverse, healthy life. It’s a moment-by-moment process that requires patience, persistence, and lots of self-compassion…and it’s so worth it.
You are so worth it!
Resources for planting new seeds:
- 101 Best Louise Hay Affirmations of All Time
- Sitting With The Turnarounds – Byron Katie
- Watch your mouth! How the stories you tell may be making you miserable – Brighter Focus blog
Spend 5 minutes with your journal and one weed (unhelpful thought). Make a list of possible new helpful thoughts, and then try each of them on to see which feels best and is most believable.
Once you’ve identified the new seed you want to plant, create a reminder and put it somewhere you’ll see it daily!
Let us know in the comments:
What new seed are you planting?