Contracting with Myself

Last Monday night, I started group therapy (per suggestion of Heidi) and was pleasantly surprised. I’m in a group of 9 women, all of whom seem to be around the same age of me and from all different pasts and issues to work though. Part of the group is that we each “own” our seats, Heidi has said. Meaning, my group is expecting me to show up every week for 12 weeks while I do this. She made sure I understood that bit, because I have an awful tendency of canceling plans out of sheer anxiety and depression. It’s pitiful the kind of excuses I can come up for as “valid reasons” why I can’t do things. I’ve broken many a relationship doing this.

At the start of every meeting, Heidi conducts a round of “Contracting” with the introductions of everyone. (We sit in a large circle on camp chairs during this.) Contracting is a part of therapy and psychology. It’s a way to make dynamic goals and things to keep in mind to better ourselves as people. Something I heard often while she went around the circle is this: “I’m going to work on not letting others’ opinions dictate what I do,” and “I’m going to ease up judgement on myself.”

I was wriggling at the seams when the spotlight was finally on me, sweaty palms, blushed face. I introduced myself and wasn’t sure what to place as My Contract. This felt so official to me, of extreme importance, and I wanted to do it right, for this would be my Contract for the year. Heidi said I could wait it out a week and see if inspiration struck me.

It did this morning. This year, I’m going to focus on this and this alone: “I’m going to set more gentle expectations of myself.”

I have a nasty habit of getting into full force competitive mode with all other living beings that I have to: be the fastest runner on the treadmills (even to the point of pain); if someone else lost 4 pounds this week, I want to say I lost 6 (even if I didn’t eat at all the day before). It gets to the point where that is all I can possibly think about during the day. I’m not happy unless I’m the best. I can’t just be “okay” and I don’t want 2nd place. I’m always setting myself for failure, and this is something I know.

The temptation to continue this mess comes from my childhood and never feeling adequate to my peers. They all seemed so beautiful to me, popular, and so very smart. I felt like I couldn’t measure up.

I know this is going to take much more than one year to accomplish, but at least I’m getting started.


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