“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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I have just spent the last two weeks ‘pigging out’ on reading your posts. So good! This one is a difficult one for me…I love to hate myself. This one is a must read until I have it truly ensconced in my mind.
I have been through 9 years of heaven and hell relationship and trying to come clean. I have been called all sorts of disgusting names, humiliated, belittled, threatend. He accused me from cheating for no reason whatsoever whilst he has been cheating and flirting with a whole lot of women. When I came to the stage where I started “answering back” , he would yell at me “who do you think you are to talk to me like that ?!” And then, one day, it actually hit home. Who am I? Why do I let a man, a “love of my life” treat me like a doormat ?? Once he told me, People only treat you how you allow them to treat you. Well, so I decided that I only want people in my life who treat me with respect and dignity. Please , pray for me to remain strong and keep away from the man who broke my heart over and over again, stepped over it and spat on it and then claimed You know I did not mean it. You forgive me every time cos you love me. Not any more. Thank you Savannah for your articles and inspiration !
Ela wrote: ““who do you think you are to talk to me like that ?!”
Ela, a narcissists delusion with their image and self-importance is beyond pathetic. Allow me tu explain why some victims will eventually use this word…”pathetic”.
At first, you will be angry. Livid, furious, in a rage, and all the other synonyms you can think of. And they’re all justified. And chances are, this feeling will last a long time (many, many years).
However, the more you distance yourself from this person, you can actually begin to see then in a different light. They are unchangeable, unteachable. They are contemptably indadequate. This is evil personified.
But hopefully, you will have enough sense to separate yourself. If you do, you’ll see yourself differently. Victims like us are like Jews who have escaped the Holocaust. Eventually, you will see them as “pathetic”. Hopeless. You will see them as “sad”, But not the kind of sadness the evaokes a feeling of caring.
You escaped with your life and your sanity and that’s all you should care about.
Great read and a nice reminder. I never really treated myself to special things that were just for me in my marriage. There was always too much criticizing so it was just easier to not do it. But, I went out of my way to please my ex, gifts, supported every hobby ( and they were numerous) and the materials, toys to go with them. Photography, karate, canoeing, special bikes, remote cars, planes, boats, bowling, pool, grilling, train modeling, wood crafts, golfing, scuba diving, birds, theist goes on. These hobbies created a financial strain and he felt entitled to them. As he would say, I work hard and make good money. My interest were never acknowledg. I desperately wanted a piano and to take lessons. Well
I took lessons, but wasn’t allowed to have a piano in the house. Savannah is so dead on. Treat yourself! My bedroom is my sanction. I too have bought beautiful bedding and sheets, candles to burn that I find relaxing. And I love not hearing my sense is smell is horrible, comment like what did that cost me. My first purchase for myself that was truly indulgence gave me great pleasure, but guilt too. Then I remembered what you had said once to me, “you are important too” it’s okay to treat yourself. Iv’e also learned to love myself
More then I have. To forgive him for what he has done, but not forget. I still love him, but I know he isn’t healthy for me. I can keep my love for him in my heart, but he doesn’t need to know that. I loved who I thought he was, but the real person emerged more and more and the real me was getting burried deeper and deeper.
I simply cannot hear this message too often. It is essential for my healing and for my progress. Thank you!
“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.” That’s the core of the issue for me. That judgmental, shaming voice that broadcasts inside my head. I have seen these messages referred to as “introjects” — outside messages that were “injected” into our minds at a very early age. They are so familiar, we think they are us. But they are not. They are a very intrusive, very forceful presence, but they are not really the true us.
The voice I think is mine says “you can’t take a break. You’re lazy. You have not done enough today. Who do you think you are? You can’t ask for help. You can’t be weak. You don’t deserve a new [whatever], who do you think you are? You can’t ask people to do things for you. Do for them, then do for yourself, by yourself.”
In many cases I know exactly where these introjects came from. My alcoholic father was never satisfied with anything I did; he would say “there are two ways to do a job. Your way, and the right way.” Or I would get straight A’s and he would say “what is this? You got an ‘S” [satisfactory] for Effort in gym class. Why not an E for Excellent?” Or whatever. Never enough. He had about as much unconditional love as he had sobriety back then — which was zero.
I really believe being kind to myself is about weeding out these ‘foreign’ voices and focusing on my own actual internal voice, which is much more self-nurturing. Part of learning self-care is un-learning to listen to these introjects. To identify them, and tell them “thank you for sharing, now get out. You are not me, and you are not good for me.”
Most of my mistakes in life have come from listening and reacting to these introjects instead of my true self.
Hurtin cowboy I’d like to recommend an excellent book on the topic of these foreign voices – The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer. It’s listed in my Savannah’s Suggested reading tab. It really helped me understand that I was not that voice that I was actually just the observer of that voice and that I can control it.
Like @DM said, I daydream a lot, too. I wonder how different my life would be today if my mother was not a Narc, and had I not dated the Narcs that I subsequently met.
I have sat back and wondered what would have happened if I dated the nice soccer player in high school, instead of the older boy who was a Narc himself and really bad for me? Would I have gone to an Ivy League college, or remained a thin athlete? What if I never agreed to date the college boyfriend I had who was also a Narc? Would I have a better career where I’m making more money? Were these “Sliding Doors” moments for me, and I epically screwed up?
I beat myself up over this for a VERY long time, as you can tell, until very recently. But what the hell was a 15-year-old and (later 21-year-old) girl who was TAUGHT and ENCOURAGED to feel worthless by her primary caregiver supposed to do? I made these bad choices because I was not given the right tools in life, because my primary caregiver was out to destroy me, and taught me to doubt my perceptions, instincts and inner voice.
Despite all this, I think I turned out all right. Somehow, I magically did not wind up with a drug addiction, eating disorder, or in jail. I went to a good university, I have a great career and seem pretty normal to most people.
I need to forgive 15-year-old and 21-year-old me, and even 35-year-old me, for getting with these Narcs. I cannot change my past, but for the first time, I recognize that I truly have agency and am in complete control of my future and am the author of my own fate.
I’m 55, had to go No Contact with everybody, since I came from a horrible Narcissistic Family and then married into one.
I felt so alone, worthless, etc…but now, I am giving myself the things I need. I’ve never done that before. It was oddly wonderful. I hope I don’t become self centered, but I have to for awhile. Accomplishments give you self esteem. Not just talking about it, but doing it.
Im finally seeing the fruits of my efforts, and they’re not being wasted on a host of users.
Life is finally feeling worth living again.
What an encouraging comment. Don’t worry about becoming self centered- you will see that you won’t. Good people with good hearts don’t become self centered. They become stronger and capable of even greater love. I worked at a charity for most of my career. The people who had the greatest capacity to care for others were those who took good care of themselves and their emotional needs.
This hit home! Very on point and relatable!! I’m in the process of “cutting” a few people/things off to get myself together. Sometimes ISOLATION is needed to find yourself all over again.
Ouch! but so true:
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.
Thank you, I needed this post. I am always tough on myself about past “mistakes” and daydream about “roads not taken.” At 45 years old, I need to let these things go, since they are eating my time, passions, and happiness.
Wow, Savannah, you said it so well again! I especially your statement of “Recognizing that I did the best I could with all that I knew at the time.” That was my path. It got me to where I am. And I am finally seeing that these difficulties in my way have brought me to be the person that I am, and I like that person and the difficult life that she has lived and where it has brought her. Is there ever a bit of longing for the nice side of the narcissist? Of course, but immediately I think of the rest of the picture and realize that I want to leave him where he is and walk on. I can keep the good memories of the good times and remember that along with them came all the bad times, but I survived them, walked away, and am still walking, exploring my fresh new life with no control of either the narcissistic husband or narcissistic mother. No more regrets that it wasn’t till I was 60 that I reached this point, just glad I am where I am and walking, walking away. In my mind it is facing north and west, as they all live south and east of me. I do not have to anymore tell them of the decisions that I make or what I do; I have finally chosen to enjoy the freedom which is my birthright.
This is the second time now that I’ve read an article and felt incredible grateful for reading it. Both times, I reached the end of the articles and saw that hey were written by you. Thank you so much!