Being angry with yourself – it happens to the best of us. Something in your life isn't going the way you hoped and now your mind is trying to clean house; often in the form of guilt and/or shame. Whatever that well-meaning upper story is yelling, it all boils down to the fact that you're just not good enough the way you are right now.
Fear not! Help is on the way. The self-compassion exercise below will help you to break the cycle of being angry with yourself, in a gentle and grounded way.
Getting angry with yourself – it starts so innocently
Something went wrong. You have (not) said or (not) done something that’s in conflict with who you really are. That happens. But then your mind swings into action; as a knight on horseback in shining armor, he will make sure to bring you to safety again.
And suddenly it's not something you've done that's not okay, no, you're not okay. Et voilà, the self-directed anger has arrived. Chances are that you’ll also get angry with yourself because you are angry with yourself – and so you keep picking up ‘swords’ and stabbing yourself with them.
And well, you and I both know that this spiral ends in a pretty deep, dark hole, where you become more and more convinced that the best thing to do is to throw yourself out with the trash.
But nothing could be further from the truth, my dear human.
And you are able to, kindly but firmly, decline this invitation from your brain and choose a different path.
Step 1 – acknowledging & detaching
The following exercise is a visualization. The most important thing to know before you proceed is this: there is no right or wrong. Everything & anything that appears in your mind’s eye is what you’re meant to see at this time. Once an image comes up, commit to it fully.
Take a deep breath and:
- visualize the event that made you angry with yourself in the first place and put it down in front of you;
- visualize what you’re feeling right now, everything this situation evokes in you, and put it down in front of you;
- visualize every way in which you’re trying to work with or against what’s happening in this moment and put it down in front of you.
An example of what this might look like:
A red alarm light, representing your feelings, is lying on the floor in front of you, along with a snapshot of the situation that started it all. Next to it, you see a numb version of yourself that symbolizes the internal reaction this has called forth. Perhaps you also picture certain words that have been floating through your mind or a representation of a body part where this experience is creating an anxious sensation.
You can keep putting things down until you feel it’s all there. Only you know everything that’s going on inside you and which things deserve a place in front of you. With this visualization you acknowledge all parts of your current experience and detach it from who you are.
The next invitation is to ask yourself a few questions to tune in and start moving towards self-compassion:
Step 2 - checking in & recentering
- How do all those different parts of the experience feel, now that they’re lying in front of you? Bigger, smaller, more, or less loaded than before the exercise? Is it easier or harder to look at them now that there’s some distance between you?
- How do you feel right now, for a moment separated from all that noise? Are you able to feel a bit more into the fact that this is not who you ARE, that you’re the observer of it all?
- Can you try to show some compassion for one of the visualizations you’re looking at, perhaps by letting it know that it’s okay it’s here, or even that you’re sorry that this part of you has to go through this?
- Can you try to show some compassion for the part of you that is (or was) angry with yourself, perhaps by reminding yourself it (you!) meant well and just had very limited resources to work with?
- Finally, are you willing to try to show some compassion for the version of you in the situation that instigated all this? Are you willing to consider that did your best, that you simply weren’t able to do better at that time, and that the fact that you (maybe) made a mistake does not mean that you ARE a mistake?
Note: You don’t have to succeed in showing yourself compassion for all these things. This is about checking in with your authentic self and trying find an in-road to reconnect.
Being angry with yourself can (with the right tools) turn into a connective experience
The experience of being angry with yourself is, on its own, already proof that this is not who you are. If it was, you wouldn’t criticize yourself the way you are right now. Apparently, you acted from a place that does not align with your authentic self. That’s okay, it happens. Now, the choice is up to you to stop piercing yourself with those metaphorical swords, so that you can restore the connection with your core.
No matter how often your mind starts throwing around its renditions of being-not-good-enough, your core remains untouched; your authentic self will always be quietly waiting for you until you’re able to land in the here and now and come home again. Give yourself a lot of time to do this. Every tiny bit you’re more present, is cause for celebration.
Tag: mindset & identity