Self-Compassion

I am working with a life coach and through a conversation with him, I recently learned that I am a self-critical person. I had never thought about what I say to myself on a daily basis and how it has changed me over the years. Once I paid attention, the soundtrack sounded a lot like this:

“You’re not doing enough; you’re not meant to be happy; you will never fit in; you’re not required…You’re not good enough”.

Don’t get me wrong. I was living a good life and so this confession will probably shock most of my friends as I share this. I rarely showed darkness or a feeling of void in my interactions. This feeling led to wanting to do more and more and to some it appeared as a personality trait of “one-upmanship”. Perhaps, somewhere deep down, a very fearful part of me believed all these words to be true.

As a consequence, I ended up feeling depressed when people spoke negative things or even otherwise, when people spoke irrelevant issues, I picked up on the negative comments and ignored the rest.

What did I want from the session with the life coach? I said I want to be a better communicator, a happier person to be around and a greater friend to myself. All of these constellations spiral closely around one bright origin: my self-compassion.

Going through the reading material, a blog by K Fredickson and L Vernick stood out. They say

“There are those who have great difficulty holding two concepts at the same time – in this case, being able to see oneself as full of worth and value, created by God as well as one who has a sin nature and needs God and His salvation. Many people find it challenging to see themselves with both grace and truth…at the same time.”

Not acknowledging this ended up leading me to condemn myself or set out a defensive response.

Romans 8:1 says,

“There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

This certainly includes condemnation of one’s own self.
The reaction of Peter and Judas who were in a similar situation says a lot.

  • When Peter betrayed Christ he felt remorse, but in his self-examination he developed humility and gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness (Luke 22; John 21)
  • When Judas betrayed Christ, his self-condemnation drove him to commit suicide. (Luke 22; Matthew 27)

Vernick goes on to explain self-compassion as having the same concern for our own pain and welfare as we would have for someone else. On the other end of the spectrum, too much of oneself projects as ‘one-upmanship’ or a battle between narcissism or self-contempt. Self-compassion is not about satisfying our needs; it deals with the thoughts deep inside us. If our mistakes are not corrected in a healthy way with both grace and truth, we end up experiencing great pain when we are confronted or when someone else points out a mistake we have made.

Vernick goes on to say that this is because we have not developed a way to internally accept our humanness and resolve the incident. We tend to either say we did nothing wrong at all and it was all the other person’s fault (narcissism), or say we are the worst person in the world and we don’t deserve to be forgiven (shame and self-contempt).

Lack of self-compassion is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of resilience, inability to forgive one’s self and problems in relationships – things that I am familiar with. The impact of this is lasting and needs to be addressed.

What do I need to do? Make new positive neural pathways –work on bringing those critical thought patterns “captive” and create a series of more compassionate statements to replace them.

  • I am going to start affirming myself with words that build, so my mind and heart look out for the positive;
  • Being mindful of what I say and how I say it;
  • Express gratitude for all that I have and receive through Christ.

To relax and not wanting control or striving for goals that are unattainable and knowing I can give yourself some space to breathe.

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