#3: Why do we need a lil' self-lovin'?
This makes all the difference
when facing some uncomfortable sh*t
Hey Hey Hey,
You know that expression... something about life not giving you more than you can handle? Well, personally, I call bullshit. People do shut down in the face of overwhelming difficulty. That's a natural response, one of your nervous system's handful of ways of keeping you safe, but I'm not sure that the 'possum gets up after having been tossed every-which-way and exclaims, "Heck yes! I handled it!" There might be times in your life where the best thing you could do at the time was to be the 'possum. Simply surviving is okay.
Chances are, you've survived. You've faced things that you weren't equipped or prepared for and lived through them. If in the aftermath, you weren't super kind to yourself, you beat yourself up with how you "should" have handled that differently that's incredibly, dazzlingly human. Why's your mind gotta be such a jerk-face jerk? If it's any comfort, you can rest assured knowing you're not alone in this. Everyone's mind is. The function of your mind sounding like a jerk-face is evolutionary. Shaming, doubting, self-criticizing: these activities of the mind are, in fact, functional in that they are protective. Whatcha mean, protective? They work to keep you out of vulnerability.
Let's consider this: Early humans lived in environments full of danger. With no built-in fangs, claws, or strength comparable to apex predators; survival required constant scanning for threats in the environment and the mind evolved to be exceptionally good at this. Our threat-scanning problem-solving mind functions just as it has evolved to do.
This is effective in keeping you insulated and protected. It is less helpful when you want to choose to be vulnerably, authentically, you AND it doesn't feel great when your thoughts are calling you stupid or questioning your worth. I'm going to suggest that maybe your mind isn't a jerk (but if calling your mind names works for you, have at it) but keeping you in a dreadfully safe space by avoiding risks which is your mind simply doing what minds evolved to do.
So most people's thoughts are generally negative? Pretty much.
We each experience over 10,000 thoughts every day and research by the National Science Foundation suggests that 80% of the thoughts that show up in our brain-space tend to be negative thoughts. Oof! That's a lot.
If negativity is the default, self-compassion is a practice.
Self-kindness, self-compassion: whatever you call it means to offer yourself the same kindness you'd offer someone whom it was important to you to be good to.
If we're realistic we can't expect that this is just going to happen. If your mind is giving you 8,000 warnings, worries, and criticisms each day it seems like an unfair expectation that it will start cheering you on despite all the emotional saber-tooth tigers out there.
Because self-compassion must be cultivated, it doesn't begin with feeling natural. Like any other form of exercise, it has to be intentional and repeated to eventually simply become part of what you do. Practicing compassion builds the self-kindness muscle.
Here are two simple practices to begin offering the gift of self-compassion to you
1. Close your eyes and imagine yourself where you are, the posture of your body. Imagine a wiser future self facing you, that they simply kindly say, "I see you."
2. Imagine a time when you were really struggling. Write a letter to yourself at that time, offering the encouragement and support they needed to hear.
Did you try it? If not, stop here. Give it a whirl.
If it feels hokey and weird, of course it does!
Remember genuine self-kindness is a practice. My guess, if you're reading this message from me to you, is that you feel held back by those self-doubting, shaming, criticizing thoughts. You want the freedom of taking up space in your life in a way that's consistent with what's most important to you.
What's true for me is that I also have to practice this. It's also true for me that the freedom you want: I want that for you. Do the hokey, weird, worthwhile thing and practice self-kindness.
Self-compassion gets a lot of flack for being touchy-feely, wishy-washy, fluffy stuff. Moving towards integrity, creating a life you want, means getting accountable to yourself. That, lovely human, does not come without discomfort. In creating the life you want, self-compassion is necessary when addressing the uncomfortable stuff. It's important to exercise this muscle to practice kindness for you. Reading a letter isn't therapy or mental health treatment. If I'm working with you in therapy and you're subscribed: Heck-to-the-yes! I hope it's reinforcing what we're getting into in sessions. What the letter does is it puts therapy concepts into writing so that they can be accessed more widely. If you know someone who'd benefit, forward this on to them. There are two ways to sign up, a consent checkbox for new clients in intake, or easy-peasy from the website... available for anyone.
As shared in my previous message, next week February 7-11 I'm taking the week off. Taking time off is part of my own self-kindness practice. You're still welcome to send me your thoughts and feedback, but know I won't respond until I'm back in the office.
So, survivor, I see you. My challenge to you is to make a commitment to getting a little weird, a little uncomfortable, and schedule some time (that's right, break out your phone, set a reminder) to practice being present and kind to you.