(This series of 8 posts on self compassion is a continuation from my earlier series on self care. If you have not read my earlier series, you can do so HERE. And once again as you go through this series, you can use journaling as a tool to get to reap the full benefit )
“and i said to my body. softly.
‘i want to be your friend.’
it took a long breath. and replied
‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”
― Nayyirah Waheed, poet
Many people struggle with low self-confidence, constantly seeking out praise and approval from others and making choices based on what everyone else does rather than what they really want or truly believe in. The innermost belief is usually "I AM NOT ENOUGH".
As a result of this, as adults, we often endlessly criticise and express our lack of self-worth by
Mistreating our bodies
Choosing to believe we are unlovable
Comparing ourselves with other people in terms of achievement, body size and shape and social circle
Judging our worth by the number of likes on social media or the number of friends rather than the quality
We also believe that loving and nourishing ourselves is somehow selfish. There is a myth that self love is the same as vanity and being arrogant, but nothing could be further from the truth. This conditioning is usually as a result of the messages that we receive from our families while growing up, media and the society at large. The focus here is not for you to find whom to blame for this conditioning, rather, it is on finding ways to overcome your negative and limiting beliefs about yourself.
I see this with many of my health coaching clients in my practice who struggle with making themselves and their health a priority. While most of my clients are women, I would think that men would have similar issues as well. And so, even as I start working with my clients on improving their diet and lifestyle, simultaneously we start working on changing the way think about themselves. Women, in particular, have a much harder time than men believing they need to take out time to care for themselves first.
For if we do not value ourselves and believe that we deserve to love and cherish ourselves, how can we ever take out the time for ourselves in our busy lives?
And very often, this lack of self worth leads often leads us to have a long "SHOULD" list.
How long is your "SHOULD" list?
How often do you tell yourself that
Be taking better care of myself
Start the new diet that I came to know about recently
Be taking better care of my family and my children
Join the gym and start exercising soon
Be meditating every day
Be spending more time with my children
Be eating healthier
Lose more weight
Does this all sound familiar to you? Do you think you “should” be doing all these things because you genuinely want to or a combination of the following- misplaced sense of guilt, childhood conditioning, comparison with others, self-criticism? Are the choices that you make in your life based on someone else’s standard or your own?
As the author, Richard Bach had said,
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough, they’re yours”
Instead, you can choose to drop some of these from your “should” list so that you can focus on what you really need and thus could do at this moment. This will empower you to feel there is actually a CHOICE that you can make right now. And that instead of living life on autopilot you can choose to take a different path.
A path that starts with a single thought and that is to CHANGE - the way you think and hence the outcomes in your life going forward. As you embark on this journey, you may also soon realise that we all pay a high price for remaining in the "comfort" zone in terms of unfulfilled dreams, a life half lived and countless "if only"s.
However, merely knowing this may not be enough. We need to learn to approve of ourselves and accept the way we are at this very moment in order to move forward. For it is only when we accept ourselves completely that we can create an inner world that feels safe, deserving of love and positive changes. For most people, this often begins with dealing with self criticism first.
Self criticism and judgement often take place at a very subconscious and a subtle level that we may or may not be aware of. Being critical and judgemental is the default option as it often seems safer than making changes. Change forces us to move outside our comfort zone and can be rather uncomfortable for most. However, not doing so keeps us stuck in the same patterns and keeps us from growing into the person that we always wanted to become. Showing kindness to ourselves, being patient and trying to understand ourselves helps us to move through this.
For no matter how old you are, the rest of your life ahead of you; whether it is 5, 10, 20 or 40 years. The past cannot be changed but you can change your entire future by focussing on the here and now. The sooner you realise this truth, the sooner you will be able to take the necessary steps to change your situation.
So ask yourself
What is it is that you truly need at this moment? What do you want from life? What are your dreams?
What is there on your "should" list that you can drop right now?
(You may want to take out some time to answer these questions in your journal)
However, this is not about how others can fulfil these needs for you but rather clarify what you need, mostly from yourself. It is far easier to let things be rather than confront the fact that just like others that we take care of, we too deserve to be looked after and taken care of. That we too need to nurture and nourish ourselves and know that there is so much more to life than who we are, what we are and where we are at this moment.
"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear"
As you take out some time to quieten your mind to actually listen to your inner voice, you may notice constant negative ideas and beliefs that hold us prisoner to our thoughts about ourselves.
It can help to ask questions like
“Where did this belief come from? Does it hold true for me now and serve me today? Or do I need to let go of it?”
Over time as you are able to let go of these, they start losing their power and hold over you. Replacing these instead with positive self-talk can be an incredibly powerful tool if you are just starting out.
Some examples are given below
- I have the power to change my mind
- I am proud of myself for trying since I know it takes courage to do so
- I may still have a long way to go but I am proud of where I have reached
- I know I can try again tomorrow and learn from the mistakes I made today
- I can learn from this challenge and grow as a person
- Every opportunity that comes is an opportunity to learn from irrespective of the outcome
As you move forward in this path you will soon realise that as you begin to have a good sense of our own worth, other people’s values, judgements and negative opinions matter less and less. This is the starting point of truly being present to yourself and discovering the sense of inner peace that comes with it. Simply knowing that you can show up just as you are, without any shame or guilt whatsoever, can set you free.
You will realise that....
You are WORTHY and you are ENOUGH
You are a unique individual whose eccentricities are to be celebrated
You are flawed just like everyone else and this is OK
Your mistakes do NOT define you, you need to learn from them and GROW
You are worthy of receiving love without feeling any guilt
You are truly free...