For so long I have been so unkind to myself. I beat myself up whenever I experience failure, I criticize myself for being inadequate when I lose, or in the face of a relationship meltdown, I blame myself entirely for the fallout. For so long, I have been so critical of myself that I forgot to be kind and compassionate to who I am — to the person that never left me despite all the self-flagellations.
I recently discovered the book called Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, Ph.D. and slowly I am learning the art of self-compassion. In the process of discovering how to be compassionate to one’s self, I realized old wounds have to be reopened, examined, processed, and, whether you believe it or not, be compassionate of. Let me give you an example.
I had an ex who in many ways has cheated on me. Like clockwork, he would tell me I was toxic, that I was unattractive. And just like clockwork, I believed him. In the process, I lost myself and formed this self-image based on what he said. I was not able to defend myself; I wasn’t able to protect myself. When the relationship finally broke up, I was left with no sense of real self-image, no ounce of self-identity but the one my ex engendered me with.
Meditation and self-compassion allowed me to reopen some details of this failed relationship — for me to identify what happened and how I could have been kind to myself in those moments. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards self-criticism because it helps us — in a way — to survive. But too much self-criticism is destructive as the flash-flood of emotions that are left unprocessed following the fallout of a relationship.
So when I started meditating and practicing self-compassion, I reexamined those moments with my ex and processed the emotions I felt during those moments. I have a mentor who told me to name the emotions I felt, because only then can you own them and handle them and respond to them. I started naming those emotions and, in the process, owning them. I own them by being compassionate towards them and to myself.
But that is not the hard part of practicing meditation and self-compassion.
The hardest part is opening yourself up to the comfort, kindness, compassion, and love you would feel in the moment of reconnecting to yourself. When you feel anger inside, you wrap that anger with love not to suppress it but to soften it. When you feel fear, you surround it with the lightness of security. Through meditation, I cried the tears I didn’t weep, offered myself the comfort I needed when no one gave it to me, extended the love I needed when my partner left me, and be the person I needed them to be for myself.
So I felt the pain but I responded with kindness and compassion for I have not done that when I felt them the first time.
It is hard to extend compassion to yourself. Why? Because it gives room for vulnerability and no one wants to be vulnerable. Society has been so tough that we have been taught to always be strong in the face of adversary, grief, loss, disappointments, and pain. However, we are nothing but humans and we share the same experiences every once in a while. We feel them and the best we can do is acknowledge them and stop beating ourselves up. Instead, we have to be kind and compassionate towards these experiences. More importantly, we have to be kind and compassionate to ourselves.