Observations on self-compassion

Observations on self-compassion

Last year, a theme emerged for me around change and growth. This year, it's refinement and improvement. With that in mind I want to come back to something I had posted in 2013 about compassion for ourselves:

It's easy to [be compassionate with myself] with things that are in the past, for me, but it is also limiting as the past can't be changed. So I'm working on being compassionate with myself in the now.

And sometimes, that is what I need the most.

A few weeks ago I was out running errands. I drove to a store, parked in a spot, and got out of the car. I started walking towards the store, car remote in hand, and locked my vehicle. Not three steps later I realized, whoops, I forgot my wallet in the car. My mind flashed an image of it sitting in my cup holder.

My first reaction was to berate myself out loud in a small, quick comment. "Forgot your wallet, motherfucker."

This time, I heard myself. And I wasn't happy with it. I had simply forgotten my wallet, but a part of me felt so strongly about this that it felt I had to say something downright mean about myself, to myself, out loud. I would never treat anyone else this way. So why would I do this to me?

The Change

There were a few things I chose to do in that moment to help myself.

The first, as noted, was to really listen to myself. Have you ever had that feeling when you're saying something and a part of you feels, "Hey, wait! This isn't me talking!" It just feels like your voice and words are on autopilot, and you're elsewhere. Well, that part may be right. In my case that wasn't me talking. This was something I had internalized (deeply) and given space and power to.

I then realized, wow, I do these tiny insults a lot! And it's over little things too, usually forgetting things - like not taking out the trash, or leaving something on the kitchen counter at home.

In an effort to help, I gave myself permission in that moment to hear my internal dialogue. What parts of me were talking? What parts were checked out? And most importantly, what parts did I need to tug on to help me out in that moment? It's like parenting: if someone insults your kid, what do you do in that moment to help and what do you do to help your kid prepare for the next time that happens?

Since I had just been insulted, I needed a highly caring part to bring in the love and reassurance, and also gracefully defend myself.

Tough work

As I said last year, looking back and being compassionate with my past is much easier. It's not here now. It's a hairstyle I chose in 1993, or a size I was in 1987, or an emotion I felt in 2003. I'm removed from it.

Being compassionate with myself in the present requires me to draw on loads of skills and feelings. It demands practice and patience, but I'm feeling more me because of it.