Are you harsh on yourself?
Blaming yourself for real and imagined blow-ups, failures, and misconducts?
Mercilessly criticizing yourself for every shortcoming and moment of weakness?
“I’m lazy” – for giving yourself a break.
“I’m useless” – for not being at Mum’s door 24/7.
“Ugly” – for taking on a couple of pounds.
Feeling angry with yourself, ashamed, and depressed.
Where Did Your Self-Compassion Go?
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ~ Jack Kornfield
Let me share a story with you.
Cousin Héléna was visiting. On one invigorating summer evening, we all went for a walk. Lost in conversation, Héléna and I were skipping along a small road.
Suddenly a cab pulled out in front of us from behind a corner.
Pierced with horror, I jumped to the side, heart-pounding and confused.
Little Héléna, alone, stood frozen in the middle of the road. The cab towering over her.
Mother’s voice wrested me out of a stupor. “How could you leave Héléna alone? Do you only think of yourself? What a big sister you are.”
Can you imagine how I felt?
Crushed with guilt and humiliation.
I was irresponsible and not to be trusted. A horrible person.
How could anybody love me?
I was 9 and Héléna was 4.
Sprinkling Ashes on Your Head
“If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others.” ~ Dalai Lama
Maybe your parents failed to understand, support, and protect you when you were a kid. Expecting you to act like a responsible adult. Judging instead of loving and forgiving. Maybe they were unresponsive to your needs, ignored you, or did terrible things to you, and so you had no other option but to think that it was your fault. That something is wrong with you, and nobody will ever love you.
Even if you had good enough parents, they could get too distracted to gauge and reflect your feelings accurately.
“With enough repetitions, a child learns to deny and dishonour natural feelings and needs and to believe that he or she is unloved or inadequate.” ~ Darlene Lancer, MFT
Self-hatred became rooted in your brain.
Taught to care about everyone but yourself, you ignore your own needs. Suppressing your emotions and mistreating your body.
Either You Have It or You Don’t
“Don’t forget to love yourself.” ~ Soren Kirkegaard
Self-compassion can’t be learned, right?
The study of neuroplasticity has shown that your brain can grow new neurons and synaptic connections. For as long as you live.
You can repair the past – your memories of being bullied, shamed or abused.
By learning self-compassion.
Let me explain.
Self-compassion is not being egocentric or self-pitying. It is neither self-indulgence nor self-esteem.
“Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?” ~ Dr Kristin Neff, a pioneer researcher of self-compassion
When you suffer from distress, self-judgment, or another painful emotion, it’s time to be kind to yourself.
You have a right to self-compassion.
And you deserve it.
Wondering Where to Start?
Let me show you.
Step by step.
1. Shift your mind.
Your well-being is your responsibility. Make it a priority and start taking care of your needs. After all, who knows them better than you?
Only when your cup is full can you take care of others.
2. Forgive yourself.
As you forgive your forgetful friend, snappy co-worker, or uncaring mum.
Like a tiny grain of sand in a desert, you’re a part of the human race, connected with others through your imperfection.
Everyone makes mistakes. It’s time to embrace your humanity.
“I am constantly forgiving myself. … when I judge another to be wrong, when I judge myself as ‘less than’… and judge the world for what I see as ‘bad.’” ~ Kerilyn Russo
3. Know and respect your boundaries.
If you don’t respect your boundaries, nobody will.
Like sumo wrestlers, people will push and shove till you give in, leaving you filled with anger and resentment.
And still unable to say no.
4. Be kind to yourself.
Being hostile to yourself makes your suffering worse and damages your feeling of self-worth. Show yourself empathy and understanding instead.
Why not show yourself empathy and understanding?
You deserve unconditional love and happiness. Like everyone else.
“It’s simply being kind to myself—meeting myself, whatever my emotional, physical or psychological state, with loving kindness. As simple, and difficult, as that!” ~ Marianne Elliott
5. Develop self-compassion.
Being an adult, you may cognitively understand that that you deserve love like everyone else, but the feeling of being damaged is still there.
To overcome this self-loathing, you need to develop compassion for that little kid you once were and for everything you had to cope with back there.
How? Keep reading.
6. Be in the moment.
Observe your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations.
Don’t be afraid to (re-) connect with your fear, anger, or shame.
It’s the only way to heal the pain.
Exercises to Speed Things Up
- Become your own parent.
As the adult you are now, imagine yourself as that little kid – scared, confused, crying his heart off, and hold him tight in your arms. Observe what she is going through.What do you feel? Do you want to protect her from any further abuse? If so, tell her, “I won’t let you be abused any longer.” Watch her relaxing in your arms.Remember this promise – that little girl still lives inside of you, and protecting her from any form of future abuse is now your job.
- Identify your feelings.
Do you feel anger, frustration, or judgment? Are you annoyed, blue, or anxious? Maybe worried or envious, even desperate? Give your feelings a name.
Having trouble? Use this list.
And, hey, avoid words like “upset” or “horrible”. Be specific.
- Accept your feelings.
First, reflect on your thoughts about them. Thoughts like, “Don’t be mad,” or “I shouldn’t be scared” are messages from your childhood imprinted in your neuronal map.
Make them conscious so you can stop them.
- Learn to comfort yourself.
Do something for pleasure. For example, take a warm bath, drink a cup of hot chocolate, or simply stroke your hand. And learn a mindful breathing technique.
It will make you feel calmer.
- Practice guided meditation.
Meditation helps to rewire your brain and accelerate healing. Don’t know much about meditation? No worries – here is the Ultimate Guide for beginners, enjoy!
Find more helpful techniques here.
Side Effects of Self-Compassion
Being kind and forgiving to yourself has terrific benefits:
Commit to Yourself
You’re not unacceptable, unlovable, or worthless.
Because YOU care about you.
Self-compassion is an antidote to your inner critic, anxiety, and depression.
Be your own loving parent.
Commit to self-love.
How to Heal from a Toxic Relationship with Your Mother
Edited by Yvonne Reese
Image by Stock-snap