an exercise in self-compassion…

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So I’ve had this burden lately to help others develop self compassion. Because we can be way crappier to ourselves than we are to anyone else. And it’s not like we don’t know this is unhealthy. We do. Yet the internal self-berating banter lingers on…

Let me give you an example. I have some fear right now. Things are going reasonably well in my life. But I have this fear that if my circumstances drop again – so will my mood. And I don’t like this fear. Sometimes I beat myself up for having it – like it’s irrational and weird for me to have.  I find myself having little if any compassion for why I might feel this way.

If I was talking to a friend, I would tell her that it makes sense that she feels this way. That her fear is based out of years of battling insecurity. That she worries she will be left alone to cope with a life that at times seems overwhelming. Then I would assure her that she is going to be okay – because she has the skills and abilities to cope with what she needs to cope with and she knows how and who to seek help from if she needs it. That is what I would tell a friend…

And I am making the very conscious effort to offer this same voice to myself. But it’s not always easy. And it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Some of us have the impulse to shame ourselves almost incessantly. Things go well – and we think we didn’t deserve it. Things go bad – and we feel like we caused it. We see failure not just around us, but deep inside of us. We don’t even have to experience failure in the external world for us to feel like a failure in our internal world.

So how do we stop this? How do we put a halt to this cycle of internal shame and self-criticism? We must choose to offer ourselves compassion. We must choose to offer ourselves empathy. We must choose to feel our feelings, decide that it’s okay to feel what we feel, that we will love ourselves even when we are at our worst, and that we can care ourselves back into a sense of security and safety.

I want to provide you with an exercise that might help you do this…

Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper. On one side write down everything your internal critic says. All of the ways you are being hard on yourself…

Then look at what you have written. What would you tell a good friend who told you these things? What would you say to them to show them compassion? Then think of or research Biblical scripture that would set itself up against your self-criticism. Write all of these things in the other column.

Take time to do this exercise fairly regularly, especially when you notice an increase in feelings of anxiety or depression. And then, as often as you need to, choose to speak and redirect your mind to compassion.

Here is an example from my sheet of paper. On the one side I wrote, “It’s stupid that you feel afraid. People must think you are so insecure.” On the other side I wrote, “It’s normal that you feel afraid. With time you will feel better. Remember what the Bible says about fear, that each day has enough worries of it’s own. Maybe you can allow yourself some time to feel this fear, give this fear to God, and be kind to yourself. You are not alone.”

For many of us, being compassionate to ourselves may feel foreign and weird at first. We are used to being our own worst enemy. And maybe we are so good at, and even pride ourselves, with loving others, so it just feels wrong to be kind to ourselves. But I will tell you being kind to yourself and learning to offer yourself empathy will free you up to serve others more generously.

And if we take this to a spiritual level, when we are kind and loving to ourselves we are choosing to see ourselves as God sees us. He does not see our sin. It is washed white as snow. He does not see our depravity. He sees us empowered with the fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we offer ourselves compassion for our flesh, but also repent and embrace that we are made new, we open ourselves up to experiencing the fullness of what Christ has for us.

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Comments

  1. Jess says

    yes…the fear, failure, shame… it is unnatural and hard to speak “truth” to ourselves when our feelings and emotions are fighting up against us telling us the opposite. feelings do not always indicate what is true in our lives. that sounds like an exercise in figuring out your wise mind. that is a hard skill to practice. another part of being compassionate? we must stop the harsh judgments we have and say about ourselves. that is another hard skill to practice. we are often more critical of ourselves than others. like you said, being our worst enemy.

  2. Christy B says

    I was quite for 9 years before I told anyone what had happened to me I was 15, had not lived with my parents for almost 4 years. For a year and a half they made me relive it over and over waiting for me to screw up in my story (yes I lied about things I stole, about if I did or didn’t do something) (my thought process was this.. I was told if I told anyone what was happening they would make up lies about me and tell them all these bad things I was doing..so you know I did, I did all those things so someone would pay attention to me and help.) It didn’t work. Everyone thought I had a problem so then sent me away from home. I could never tell anyone, I never heard anyone even talk about what was happening to me so I thought it was only me and that was just the life I was suspose to live. Treated badly in the church, I prayed and it never got answered, so that

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