Self-Compassion: A Pillar to Healthy Living
“For some reason, we are truly convinced that if we criticize ourselves, the criticism will lead to change. If we are harsh, we believe we will end up being kind. If we shame ourselves, we believe we end up loving ourselves. It has never been true, not for a moment that shame leads to love. Only love leads to love.” Geneen Roth
Self-destruction seems to be a ubiquitous part of the human experience. It happens at the very core of us, when we don’t love and value ourselves. It’s what happens when we live with unresolved feelings of pain and regret. Those thoughts and feelings eat away at us, even if they’re not always conscious, they’re still always there, manifesting through various aspects of our lives.
Self-compassion and self-destruction are really antonyms. Isn’t it true that the more you show yourself love and compassion, the less you want to cause yourself harm? And when you value yourself you tend to look for healthier ways to make yourself feel good. When we don’t love ourselves, aren’t we often reckless and not taking proper care of ourselves?
Every time that I wouldn’t treat myself with compassion, I would inadvertently be responsible for my own destruction. There have been times in my life when the heartache and pain I was suffering was enormous and what would I do? How would I cope? – By abusing myself. This is what people do –if you hurt – you drink, you take drugs, you eat, you find some vice that makes you feel better. It’s what we do every time we answer that text and go back to an abusive relationship. All we’re really doing is punishing and abusing ourselves more.
I’ve always shown compassion to other people. I couldn’t stand to watch another suffer without lending some type of support, but that support was always for someone else, never for me. Until I figured out what self-compassion was all about, I continued to go from someone hurting me, to me hurting myself and back again.
Showing yourself compassion means that you go back and you heal all those internal hurts through a cognitive process. You look at the context in which it happened, who said it and the conditions under which it was said or done. If someone hurt me because they were damaged I pass that back to them. That’s their issue and has nothing to do with me. Then I look at little me, or younger me and I give that person a heap of love and understanding. Recognizing that I did the best I could with all that I knew at the time. It’s about looking at your past and the choices you made there, with an eye towards sympathy and empathy and not reproach or criticism.
When I look back at 14 year old me starving for love and attention and there is an 18 year old Adonis professing to love me and give me everything I so desperately needed – hell yeah – in that moment – with that me – I would make that choice every time.
Rather than looking back at it and calling myself 10 shades of fool, for all the heartache that was heaped upon me, I can look at that girl with an endless amount of compassion and love and know that she made the best decision she could at the time, with the skills she had learned up to that point. She wasn’t bad or wrong, or stupid. She was just a little girl that was in desperate need of having someone love her and she hadn’t learned what real love looked like yet.
For a long time I wished that I could go back and do it all over again differently. I would fantasize about what my life would be like if I avoided this person all together and took this path instead. I spent a lot of time being angry at my mother for putting all these internal obstacles in my way – giving me extra work to overcome before I could really take a bite out of life.
Really what she gave me was actually a gift. It taught me that real self-love, real forgiveness and real self-compassion are about looking at everything that happened to you – every wrong that was done to you, every stupid decision, every hurt, every move you made that didn’t have a favorable outcome and not wishing it had happened any differently, and knowing that the most painful times in our lives are usually the ones that teach us the best lessons.
Radical self-care is what we’ve been longing for, desperate for, our entire lives–friendship with our own hearts.” Anne Lamott
Self-Compassion is also about nourishment. It’s about being good to yourself – making you feel good, because that is your job – no one else’s.
What that means for me is that I do the little things that make me feel good. I treat myself to walks in nature, because I enjoy it and it’s good for me. I take nice relaxing bubble baths. I buy really nice bed sheets and slide into the most comfortable bed you could ever imagine, feeling like a queen, I have those long, deep conversations with people that nourish my soul, I spend time with my nephews and niece watching movies, playing soccer, or playing Skylanders. I do all those things that make me feel content, balanced and happy. You see, when you do the things that make you feel good, you’re not looking to get those needs filled by someone else. You’re whole, you’re nourished and you’re complete all by your lil’ ol’ self.
Codependents and Fixers have a big problem with being good to themselves. It’s taboo, forbidden and it just feels foreign. It goes against everything that they’ve been taught about themselves. Part of our journey, here on earth, is to break out of the judgments, shame and prejudices that other people have placed on us and to move closer to our true selves. Finding self-compassion is a big part of that journey, because when you see yourself as a person of value and you treat you in a loving and respectful manner, you are honoring your spirit and others can’t help but follow your lead.
Self-compassion is about forgiving yourself. It’s knowing that you did the very best that you could with the tools you had at the time. It’s about knowing and doing what’s right for you, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. It’s about acceptance and allowing yourself to be who you are and to make mistakes along the way, without regret or criticism. But most importantly, self-compassion is about love.
Love does conquer all, except Hollywood got it a little mixed up. It’s not about romantic love between two people, it’s about self-love, because when you love yourself there really isn’t anything that can stand in your way.
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