A dear friend asked me to write about self compassion for the #1000speak movement. Sweet of her to ask so I thought sure, I can do that. Then I started typing the most boring, mundane clinical description of my version of self compassion…..truly it sucked. Then I remembered…..I’m not a clinician so how about I just get real with this topic?
Self compassion for me, is the act of being kind to myself and treating me like the awesome friend that I can be to others. It sounds all flowery, with hand holding, perhaps singing Kumbaya or at least a trip to the mall, but not always. Sometimes, just like with your good friends, someone needs a swift kick in the ass. A heavy dose of truth serum, removal of the blinders if you will. Yes that is also compassion in the long run. And guess what sometimes you need to do that for yourself.
I grew up in a crazy household. Drunk mother, absent dad, I bore witness to some serious insanity and I mean that in the clinical sense. As a young girl I learned the ways of self preservation. It often meant hiding in the shadows and people pleasing to an extreme. I learned to read people and react in ways that they would favor. These were my defense mechanisms and they served me well, until they didn’t anymore.
When I was 15 my mother tossed me into rehab. It wasn’t completely unfounded. I had decided to start drinking and experimenting with drugs just about the time when she first tried to get sober when I was 13. Shitty timing on my part….if I started a year or two earlier at say 11, she would have been too drunk to notice any change. Teenage rebellion and sober mom did not get along well and after several warnings I found myself in rehab.
I had no intention of getting sober, none. I thought I would just do my time, gain some street cred and go on my merry little way. I was wrong. A few days into my stay I had what is known as a spiritual awakening…..please don’t leave I promise it isn’t overly religious. Anyway, my awakening was a moment of awareness. I know it sounds very new age….it was really just a few moments of clarity when I realized the crazy shit storm of a life path I was on and I made a conscious effort to change course. I had a moment of realization and I made a decision to stay sober. That was in 1983 and I’m still sober today. Huge act of self compassion right there.
My first year of sobriety was insane. My mother got remarried when I left rehab and her husband got violent. End result, I was homeless. So there I was 15, newly sober, scrambling to find a place to live. I wound up in nearly a dozen places in the course of my first year sober. Some were good, some were bad, one was horrendous. At this point my self preservation skills were in effect. When I finally got to a safe place I needed to add some tools to my toolbox.
I was exposed to the 12 steps of AA and received a lot of counseling that first year of sobriety. I learned a lot that first year and more than 30 years have passed and I try to remain teachable. My tools for self compassion have changed as I have gone from a troubled teenager to a responsible adult – mother, wife, community member, business owner, et cetera. The transition has not always been smooth.
Here are some of the things that I do to show compassion for myself:
This is not self indulgent. That’s right all the stuff you’ve heard forever – eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, stay out of harm’s way. These are all valid and necessary in my life. I can feel a shift when I haven’t eaten, slept well and/or haven’t exercised. Self care is self compassion.
I have to be honest with myself about the things I like and don’t like about me. This has often required coaching from a trusted friend. Was I an ass in that situation? Should I apologize? What can I do differently? Or as I heard once, decades ago and probably in an AA room. Ask yourself three questions if you are unsure of how to proceed in a situation: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary? There have been plenty of times when I kept my mouth shut because I couldn’t give a yes to all three. And, honestly I apologize a lot because I am wrong a lot. Being able to look at myself and make changes (or at least try) helps me to make eye contact with myself. This is also, self compassion.
Sometimes the thoughts I play in my head are inaccurate and they are almost always worse than reality. This can range anywhere from self loathing which manifests itself in really shitty negative mental name calling to full blown scenarios that do not exist. There are thoughts I have to routinely push away – I’m fat, ugly, old, stupid, whatever the insecurity of the day is….I need to fight it with something positive. This is also an internal dialogue – you’re healthy, you worked out, some people don’t even make it to 47, you are a solidly decent human being, get a grip woman. Facts aren’t feelings, focus on the facts. I have been known to make lists of pros/cons for a variety of situations – work, love, wall color, anything. So basically I have to talk myself off the ledge, less than I used to but more than I want to. Being aware of the negative thoughts in my head and fighting them with purposeful kindness and awareness is self compassion.
Self love (passion)
Not talking about solo romance here (not that there’s anything wrong with that). More like self actualization. What brings you joy? Do you have a calling or an urge to do something? Was a seed planted years ago and you just haven’t watered it and given it sun? I have made the things that make me feel joy a priority. Now I admit this isn’t always easy to schedule in. If you have financial/physical/other obstacles you might feel too tired to try a yoga class or maybe you can’t afford to go to a writer’s conference. That’s legit and I get that. Find a way to squeeze in your passion even if it is only in 10 minute increments. Like to write – keep a journal, blog or use social media to put yourself out there. Like to dance, check out the YMCA they might have some classes you can take on the cheap. My calling is hospice work. I felt the first pull in 1997 when my aunt was dying of cancer. It took me 11 years to have a schedule that allowed me to pursue becoming a hospice volunteer, but I did it.
Finding and fulfilling your passion is part of self compassion.
I hope this doesn’t come off preachy because honestly, I am not a fan of preachy. I just feel so strongly about people taking charge and being the best, happiest version of themselves. These are just my experiences with life and my version of self compassion. There isn’t a universal formula for success here. Just know that if you are struggling to be kind to yourself, others have been there. Please be good to you, you’re worth the effort.
This post was written by Bryce Warden – Bryce isn’t her real name, but due to her shady, sordid past and a husband who adores privacy she started this little blog thing as her personal diary/midlife crisis. She has been through some sh*t people and shares her raw and honest stories on Was That My Out Loud Voice? Bryce has been a SAHM with two kids for 10+ years. In her prior life, she was climbing the corporate ladder in the healthcare technology sector, super exciting field (not really). She also runs a small business dedicated to caring for both people and pets and is a hospice volunteer. Bryce has lots of stories to tell; some are funny and others will break your heart. So, grab your beverage of choice and put a lid on it – it could be a bumpy ride.