Treat yourself like a toddler

by Chappell on January 21, 2011

I started following Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project several months ago.  I love the daily reminders that happiness is something that can and should be actively pursued, and once in while she presents an idea that I just LOVE.  Today I’m passing along one of them.  She writes:

I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”

Similarly, I’m going to imagine how I’d view myself as a toddler. “Gretchen gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner.” “Gretchen needs some quiet time each day.” “Gretchen really feels the cold, so we can’t be outside for too long.”

The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, my constant snacks, and my eight hours of sleep….

It’s easy to expect that you “should” be able to deal with a particular situation, and of course, to a point, it’s admirable to be flexible, to be low-maintenance. But I realize that I’m much happier — and more fun to be around — if I recognize my limits.

What would you say if you talked about yourself as if you were a toddler?  How would it free you up to stop feeling guilty about whatever small accommodations you need or limitations you have?  I have had some fun thinking about this over the last few weeks and I have found that once I can be honest with myself about what I really need to thrive, it is much easier to ask other people for their understanding in a non-complaining, non-guilting way.  Instead of thinking of it as a shortcoming or a fault, it is simply what I need to be the happiest, best person that I can be (and isn’t that who everyone wants to be around?).

The full text of this blog can be found here.  Gretchen Rubin is also the author of the book: The Happiness Project, which describes her year long project to become a happier person.

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