So I've been exploring the idea of self-compassion lately. It seems like such a simple concept & makes me wonder why it is something that I need to work at, since it fits in with the way I want to see the world. But I've been living a life somewhat contradictory to self-compassionate. This new venture started when I began to recognize ways my habits & perspective were getting in the way of my own happiness. Understanding that the constant criticism I put on myself was not making me strive to be better, but only knocking me over, again & again. I imagine this as an invisible wall that will only allow me to go so far in my potential. I can see past the wall but I can't seem to get through it.
This becomes pretty evident when I look back at my achievements. If I were to list them on paper, compared to average, they are pretty impressing. But in my head, this lingering sense of 'never good enough' clings to these accomplishments. And I realized that it didn't matter how successful I became in any area of life I never felt like it was enough, which would lead to a constant frustrated state, wondering if ever feeling good enough was even possible for me.
Motherhood has Really highlighted this attitude & how it affects me. In a conversation with a friend a couple months ago I was expressing my frustrations of my inability to handle the every day stuff, when I was told that I had been disregarding the life I had worked hard to build up to that point & was only focusing on what was going wrong. This perspective was clouding my judgement on myself as a mother, and it didn't seem to matter how many times I had been told I was an exceptional mother by my loved ones, I never could believe it for myself. I realized that this had less to do with my parenting abilities & more to do with the way I saw myself. I realized that it was me that had to change inside if I wanted to find a happier life. And it had something to do with self-love. This is where self-compassion comes in, something that I've learnt is a very important factor in practicing self-love.
It was a concept I had started to form in my own mind, when I came across the works of Brene Brown, & through one of her books was led to a website called Self-compassion.org, which I have only just started to explore. It has meditations that have helped me to calm my mind on sleepless nights & inspiring videos explaining what self-compassion is & why it is important. It has become an important tool in my every day to recognizing how critical I can be with myself & how the negative self-talk affects my emotions, thoughts & behaviour.
This was put to a small test a couple days ago. Our oldest was at school & I was out running errands with my husband & two youngest. After loading the groceries & the yelling baby into the van, my husband says "Oh yeah, we have to be home in time for Scarlett. What time is it." Instant regret & panic simultaneously rushed over me when I looked at my phone to see it was 3:48. To make matters worse, it was an early dismissal day, so Scarlett had been out of school for over an hour. She would have walked home from school to find the door locked & nobody home...
I immediately called the neighbours to see if she had gone next door, a plan we had made when she started walking home on her own. Thankfully she had, she was safe & in good hands. My inner-critic immediately went to shaming thoughts of 'I'm a terrible mother' & feelings of inadequacy. My husband, in the drivers seat beside me, who has not been 'blessed' with tendency towards perfectionism, was calmly contemplating whether she would be upset or not. And even though we were equally responsible for this mishap, I could tell he wasn't facing the same inner-battle as I had been so I decided to give his approach a shot. Instead of talking to myself about what a mistake I had made (which it was simply that, a mistake) I thought about how I would speak to a good friend if this happened to them (or what my friends might say to me) & started telling myself this is something that jus took about anyone could see themselves doing & everyone makes mistakes. I took it a notch further & started explaining out loud to my husband the inner struggle I was facing & how I was working on it. He pointed out that I did a great thing by talking to her about what to do in this situation in advance & she followed through. I went from being a terrible mom to a great mom in a mere five minutes. By the time we got home I was able to laugh about the situation. In fact I even forgot about most of the day except when someone would crack a joke about it. Had I not taken this approach I would probably still be beating myself up for it 3 days later. In the end, everyone was ok, intact, probably a little better for it.
Changing self-talk habits took a lot of energy at first, as I found myself circling back to old ways of self-sabitoge, but the more I practice, the more I see how effective it is & the more automatic it becomes. Most of all it has allowed me to let go of many the unrealistic expectations of the perfectionist in me & the pressure that comes with it. Although it takes a lot of deliberation, this 'I am good enough' state of mind feels quite liberating. Don't get me wrong, I still go back to those old habits, and I think it is pretty human to do so. And I'll even admit there is that little part of me that is afraid to let go of those expectations in the fear that I might settle for mediocracy. But what I do know is my old way of thinking was anything but liberating. So I am working at finding that balance between healthy expectations & reprieve, the most nurturing environment for self-compassion to thrive in. I really do think being kind to oneself is so important in fulfillment, but in reality it can be a real challenge, especially in a culture that counteract the value of it in so many ways. Especially for those of us that have spent years being so critical of ourselves. But it takes mindfulness, intention & effort, which I believe will be totally worth it in the end.