I’m sure that it’s no surprise that I’m much kinder to others than I am to myself. As much as possible, I try to show empathy and give others the compassion they so rightly deserve. Compassion for myself, however, is in exceedingly short supply. I’m taking action to change that!
Currently, I’m enrolled in an outpatient mental health program offered through my local hospital. The program draws heavily from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), a component of which is self-compassion. Indeed, this week’s homework is to look at how we support and talk to a friend in distress and compare that to how we talk to ourselves in like circumstances. The goal is to show us that compassion is within us, we just need to learn to direct it inward.
For me, that comparison isn’t pretty, but it is informative.
When lending support to another, showing them empathy and compassion, my voice is soft, measured, my posture non-threatening. The language I use is conciliatory, perhaps playful. I’m open and welcoming, giving a hug to provide comfort. My whole being is relaxed and calm.
Contrast that with how I am with myself. My voice is harsh, loud, livid. My posture is stiff and threatening. The language I use is venomous, mean-spirited, dehumanizing. No room for play. I’m closed off, distant, refusing all comfort as I don’t deserve it. I’m unworthy, less-than. My entire being is tense, filled with the need to destroy myself. I once took action to achieve that end. Certainly no evidence of any compassion for myself.
There’s no doubt that hearing phrases like “You should’ve been smothered at birth, not mothered” play a role in this self-loathing. How could it not?
For me, there are two takeaways from this comparison exercise. First, I’ve got a great deal of work ahead of me to counter the vile way I talk to myself. Second, I must be careful in using the DBT comparison tool. As I was writing the foregoing paragraphs, I could feel my self-loathing rise. More than once I had to stop, breathe, and step back.
But in this awareness lies hope. I can build on it. I can learn to accept the emotions, the moods, but in a more mindful, more compassionate way. It’s within me to view the emotions and moods, observe them without judging them or myself. In doing this, I can gradually learn to let those emotions and moods go. A learning process, to be sure, but one that I need to engage in.
Alongside this, I can grow self-compassion by using affirmations. I have an app on my phone to do just that. That app has the capability to add affirmations more in tune with my needs. I’ve created a text file with numerous affirmations for that purpose. Time to put the app, and that text file, to use to better my mental health. Surely I’m deserving of that?
I concede, I don’t believe that. Currently, feeling compassion towards myself is a stretch. Nonetheless, I can do the hard work necessary to grow self-compassion. I must do this because it’s a necessary step in my healing. And I do want to heal.
Image by Constance Kowalik from Pixabay