Lauren wrote me about how she’s being so hard on herself, even though she knows full well it isn’t going to make her feel any better (not relatable at all 😅):
‘’I’m used to being the doer, the fixer, the problem-solver. Recently, I have gotten sick, and then got extremely anxious about everything, which has left me out of work. So I’ve been very hard on myself to just feel better, because I got things to do. I understand this is never going to make me feel better, in fact, it will make me feel worse, but it’s hard.’’
In my advice column ‘’Self-compassion Support’’ I try to answer your questions with the best gentle & grounded guidance I’ve got.
Could use some fluff-free advice rooted in the practice of self-compassion yourself, too?
Thank you so much for sharing your struggle with me.
First, I would like to take a moment to note that it is SO VERY understandable that what you’ve been through recently has resulted in all this anxiousness. That is what our minds do, what they’re supposed to do even. Our brains like to create a sense of security and control, where there is none. ‘’Here’s something to worry about, so you don’t have to feel all those scary feelings that this challenging situation evokes.’’ Of course, this only makes things harder, but it is good to know why it happens and that your brain actually means well.
You’re only human
I’m not trying to bypass at all how much this sucks, I just want to remind you how normal and okay and human it is what you’re experiencing right now. There is nothing wrong with you or your current experience – or your brain for that matter. You are doing everything right.
3 tips on how to stop being so hard on yourself with just 1 metaphor
So, you got sick, and that has made you anxious. This is your reality right now. And we all have this tendency, reflex almost, to take our painful experiences and place them onto a ”bed of nails” – aka the self-judgement, the pushing, the ”this should be different”, all the hardness with which we meet our experience.
#1 Describe your personal ”bed of nails”
My first invitation to you would be to take a moment to write down all the things that you do, say, think etc. that could be one of the nails on this metaphorical bed. Again, we all do this, it’s just helpful to know what your personal reflex-like (re)actions are, so that you can start to recognize them faster and more often.
Also, when it’s clear what this hardness looks like exactly, it’s easier to think of things that might help you create a bit more comfortable ”bed” instead. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
#2 Decide to stop making it worse
Anytime you notice that you’re meeting your hardship with a certain hardness, you can try this visualization to reinforce your intention to stop making it worse:
Visualize a snapshot of your current experience and imagine removing it from the torture bed and giving it a less spiky home. Maybe a bed of clouds and roses and cotton candy feels a bit too far-fetched right now, but there is a lot in between. Every second of every day, no matter for how long or how hard you’ve been on yourself, you can decide to move your experiences from your torture chamber to this more humane place. And if you’d like, you could draw a picture, write a note, or create or buy something special, as a reminder of the existence/possibility of this place.
#3 Describe your less spiky bed
Over time you might collect and write down what kinds of thoughts, actions, affirmations, reminders, etc. can be part of this softer spot for your experiences to be held by.
It just has to be a little warmer, lighter, gentler than the things you tell yourself right now, or the things you push yourself to do, or the things you don’t allow yourself to experience.
You don’t have to feel all these lovey-dovey feelings towards yourself or your situation to still be able to decide to not make it worse.
It’s all about the intention
Let this be your intention. Nothing more. To stop making it worse. Not to get better or feel better or think better thoughts. Just to not add onto it, anytime you realize that this is what you’re (inadvertently) doing.
Dear Lauren, I hope sometime soon you’ll find yourself in a place where you have more access to your inner peace, and life will feel a little more easeful and joyful again. 💛
Yours in all things self-compassion,
PS. A bonus tip for anytime you’re being hard on yourself:
That nasty voice inside of us telling us there is something wrong with who we are or how we do things, does not originate within us. It’s rooted externally, in whatever society or our caretakers/parents told and showed us throughout our lives. And it can help a lot to consciously make this distinction. One way to create a bit more distance between that voice and you (because, again, you are not this voice) is to rephrase its statements.
Whatever it is telling you, it usually comes down to ‘’I suck’’, and we can’t fight an I-statement. We can fight a you-statement. If you hear something resembling ‘’You suck’’ inside your mind, it is more likely that you’ll feel frustrated, or angry, or at least it will make it harder for you and that voice to stay entangled. And you need that to be able to take back your power and reconnect with your authentic self.
Hi, it’s me, Shirley!
A few years ago I decided to stop making my life any harder than it already was. And since then my life has been perfect.
Okay, that’s a lie.
But thanks to my self-compassion practice I now know how I can, time and time again, find my way back to my authentic self. And that’s what makes my life so much more easeful & joyful these days.
Let’s cultivate more self-compassion together!
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