You are about to attend that important meeting to discuss the raise that you desperately need to support your family. Or you are about to sit the exam you have been studying hard for the past year to get into that elite University. Or you are about to give a presentation in front of your entire class and you hate presentations. Or you are about to confess your true feelings to someone but the prospect of rejection is unbearable. And you only have once chance but something goes horribly wrong. What do you do?
Maybe you do have an answer to that, or maybe you don’t. Regardless, some of us would do this thing where we lay the complete blame on ourselves, even though it might have been a situation beyond our control. We will replay all the things, little or big, we did wrong without really knowing how much of that contributed to the situation. We will see all our faults and flaws and be haunted by them until something happens.
Maybe that something is being diagnosed with depression or a miraculous solution. But it might take a while for either of these things to surface. Meanwhile, some of us will get on with our lives and move on to (or atleast try to find) alternatives, while some of us will keep suffering. In some cases, there will be suicide.
When I first heard of this concept called self compassion, I was blown away. Being compassionate to myself? Is such a thing possible? Crazy, right?! Well, I watch ted talks. I don’t simply watch them, I binge on them from time to time. Then there’s a long period of time when I don’t watch any talks. Then the cycle begins again. It’s just one of the ways I like to procrastinate.
I am a very motivated person. Ambitious, as well. But I am highly critical of myself. So, Susie gained a little weight? She should be proud, she looks fine to me. I gained a little weight? I should be ashamed of my unhealthy eating habits. Sam got a C on that test? She is doing fine. I got a C on that test? I am a failure. These are just some generic examples but do you see my point?
So, you can imagine how I felt when I came across this talk on self compassion. It explains the difference between self esteem, confidence and compassion. One of the things that hit me, which might seem obvious, was the fact that we say things to ourselves which we would never say to anyone else. It’s okay if we are cruel to ourselves, as long as we aren’t to others, right?
When something bad happens, we can’t change it. Even if we are at fault, it’s not like we can go back and change the past. We can blame ourselves, but how does that help? For some people, this self blaming could be a trigger for mental health issues. So no, it’s not right for us to be cruel to ourselves. The more compassionate we are to ourselves, the faster we will recover. We become more resilient because we know that being evil to ourselves is not going to fix anything.
Now, I am not going to go into depression. Because that’s a different topic which I don’t know much about. I don’t know how much of chemical imbalance in the brain is triggered by environmental factors and how much by genetic factors. Once someone starts suffering from depression, I can’t just go to them and say ‘hey, be kind to yourself.’ They no longer have that control. (If I am misinformed about depression, my apologies. I am more than happy to stand corrected)
I am not saying that the awareness of self compassion is going to make that feeling of self loathing disappear. Neither can I promise that being kind to ourselves will fix the situation right there and then. But what I can say is, it can reduce that feeling of sorrow and hate that seem to fill every cell of our body. When the entire world seems to be against you, you are all you got. So, be kind to yourself. Because it will give you and I hope. Hope, because we know we can’t dwell on one situation and the best thing to do is to take a step back, recover, evaluate, then take a step forward.
Ultimately, we are alone in our success and in our failure. Some of us have support and some of us don’t. But we all experience life uniquely. My experience could never be measured upto yours, and yours couldn’t be measured upto mine. Wouldn’t it be great then to have that experience without all that hatred towards our own self?