I had the pleasure of interviewing the fabulous Dr. Stephanie Kriesberg this morning. We had a wonderful discussion about women who were raised by narcissistic mothers. Several important things came up in our interview. It will be released in December on The Whinypaluza Podcast, and I hope you will listen and enjoy it. The concept of self-compassion came up in our discussion. This is such an important concept and I really want us to absorb how important this is. As I frequently listen to women talk, I continue to be surprised by how they talk about themselves. I know you have heard this before from me, and you will keep hearing this as I will continue to go on a mission to change this with myself and so many others. I have made major progress, and I hope you will make more progress with me too!
The definition of self-compassion that google gave me from Wikipedia, “Self-compassion is extending compassion to oneself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main elements – self kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.” I have been advised to go get Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.
I continue to notice how women talk to me. They would say something wonderful and supportive to me and then turn around and rip themselves apart. I started to ask questions. Why didn’t they deserve the same compassion? Why do I get their compassion and understanding and yet they weren’t giving it to themselves? Why didn’t they think they deserved the same respect?
As women ripped themselves apart right before my eyes it made me do a deep dive into myself. I started to ask myself the same questions. Why was I so kind to everyone but myself? That didn’t make any sense to me. Don’t I deserve it too? I heard someone say, “What would you tell your best friend?” That became my motto for my inner dialogue. I was going to become my own best friend! Not only was I on a mission to help women be kinder to themselves, I was also going to be my own best friend.
When I spoke to my 13-year-old in the car the other day, she told me that she was really annoying in fifth grade. I asked her why she thought that? She told me because she was constantly texting people and looking for help to cope. She said she felt like she was always texting, and seeking, and annoying people. Now she said she is less annoying because she has learned to be her own best friend. This child of mine blows me away with the things that were coming out of her mouth. I learned that I needed to be my own best friend at 46 years old and she already learned this lesson at 13. If she can learn this, then we all can!
Why do we criticize ourselves?
- Feelings of shame, guilt, sadness, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, frustration, disappointment.
- Modeling our parents and others in our life.
- Abused as a child.
- Caregivers were controlling and critical.
- How you have wired your brain to think – constant reinforcement of self-criticism.
- Mental illness – anxiety and depression for example.
- Lack of tolerance for mistakes made.
How can we give ourselves more self-compassion?
- Be your own friend. Start with talking to yourself as a friend. Become friends with yourself. Start changing that inner dialogue to encouraging and kind words. Be your own friend not your worst enemy.
- Practice self-acceptance. I am beginning to love myself as I am. I used to look in the mirror and rip myself apart. Now I practice loving what I see. Loving what I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t screw up.
- It’s okay to screw up. Everyone does. Everyone makes mistakes. I used to ruminate over something I said that I didn’t like. I’m learning to laugh it off and learn from it. “That’s okay. You screwed up. What do you want to say differently next time?” Did you ever hear the expression that it isn’t a mistake if we learn from it? I love that expression and have taken that to heart.
- Taking care of myself. I took myself on a nail date today and got my nails done. It made me feel so wonderful. I love when my nails are pretty. I’m going to go make myself a healthy lunch and then a healthy dinner. I’m going to book a massage appointment. I took myself to the skin doctor yesterday. I’m caring for myself too.
- I keep reading how important mindfulness is in self compassion. Being present and just allowing ourselves to feel. The feeling doesn’t have to be a good feeling to be okay. Learn to accept that you will feel all the feelings. Let’s just accept what we feel even if it makes us uncomfortable. Just sit with your feelings and be present with them. Kelly Hutcheson is a wonderful counselor who teaches people that we will have ALL the normal human emotions. All of them! I love that she says that. I use her line all the time. Let us all normalize all the feelings. We all have all of them. Put away the labeling and judging and just accept and allow your feelings.
- Gratitude leads to a more gentle voice in your head. This helps us to be less self-critical and more appreciative of our beautiful lives.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others. This is your own journey. Worry about competing with yourself. Work on improving yourself. Don’t worry about what Joe Shmoe is doing. If you ran the mile in 8 minutes and you want to run it faster than compare yourself to that. Aim for running faster than 8 minutes. Don’t worry about Joey running it in 6 minutes.
My daughter came home from school and told me that she only got an 88 on her math test. “Honey, that is fabulous!” I exclaimed with a lot of enthusiasm. You see, while my son blinks and gets 100 in math, my daughter works very hard in math. She would much rather go to ELA and my son would much rather go to math. Everyone is different. She has continuously been frustrated by her friends easily getting 100’s in math. This is her own journey. Why is she being so hard on herself? It isn’t coming from me. This is coming from her seeing how other people are doing in math. She needs to rewire her thoughts to realize that an 88 is really good for her and that’s what matters. She can aim for a 90 next time. The self-criticism of her math grades is not serving her. What would serve her is some compassion and praise for how hard she tried and how motivated she is to do well in school. I tell my girls every day that their effort is what matters to me. I see them both working hard and that is what counts. I don’t compare my children because all three of them are so different. We are all on our own journey.
People don’t love you because you are faultless or perfect. They love you for you. You are worthy of love from yourself and others just the way you are. Teach people how to love you by having compassion and love for yourself. Start small today.
In the words of Buddha, “You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the universe deserve your love and affection.”
Laughing, Learning, Loving yourself,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R
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