Self Compassion — Where my greatest strength is being born
The best version of myself. It’s the aim that’s been weighing me down the last couple of years. What makes me great? How should I define myself?
I don’t know whether it’s just me or my generation in general. We have this deep-seated desire to be better than the next person, altering our image and facade to look the part as well. I was part of that crowd. Wanting to make as much money as possible even if it meant putting my health and social life at risk and putting it out to the world (the world being social media).
My self-esteem was dependant on how hard I was working, how much money I was making, how much I ‘hustled’, and not to mention how much I ‘turned it up.’
I didn’t realise til down the track how dishonest I became towards myself. how much I resented myself for not being all the way at ‘x’ and the amount of self hatred I felt for not being where I wanted to be.
It was not till my late 20’s when I decided to actually tone down a bit and start working on myself. It was mainly my anxiety, which was the root of my problems. As cliche as it sounds, ‘not feeling good enough.’ The constant criticisms I gave to myself daily about not being able to do this or that better. Feeling shame every-time someone (especially close to me) insults me. The cycle was pretty clear. Every time I felt terrible about myself, I did something to overcompensate for my lack of worth. It’s pretty much been there since I was young.
The first thing I did was read. I read a lot. Then I found out intellectualizing is a form of defense against anxiety.
I decided I should try therapy. So many times, I wanted to do it, but I backed out out of fear. To my surprise, it was life-changing! In the 6 months I had done therapy, I had improved tenfold. Even people who saw me weekly saw the difference in my personality. The main thing I got out of therapy was treating yourself like you would your best friend. Asking myself, ‘is the way I talk to myself the same way I would talk to a friend?’
Obviously, the journey is not easy, it still isn’t. I fell out of my new habits and fell back into my old ones for a few weeks, which drove me to write this article.
I guess this is part of the game. My therapist did tell me it’s a regular practice and that I will likely fall down the track.
Firstly I would like to say that despite what society tells you, it’s not too late to achieve what you want or go in a particular direction. Yes, things take time to complete. Yes, we can’t win all the time. Still, generally speaking, the perceptions of others matter very little on our overall happiness. It is something we are going to think of so little when we are breathing our last breathes.
Settling back to my old habits started with my current girlfriend. Self-honesty and open communication is one of the values we uphold with ourselves and each other. To be honest (ha!), it’s one of the hardest things to practice. The challenge came up when she would mention someone she dated in the past, my jealousy would fire up. At that moment, I am shameful for feeling it, and for a split second, I don’t like that she can make me feel that way. I would start to criticize myself for feeling that way, trying to get the feeling to go away. It drives her insecurities up because she thinks that eventually I will resent her for creating those feeling and end the relationship. This creates even more shame in my anxiety and makes me more worried that she won’t be confident about openly communicating with me. This is where I realized my mental game was falling back into its old patterns.
I thought it’s a self-confidence issue. My therapist did say that the more wins you get in life than the more confident you will be in your ability. Probably I was not counting and acknowledging my successes enough? Because I did not estimate myself high enough, that made me way too sensitive about how I matched up with her. My fear of having too much self esteem lays in the feeling of entitlement I did not want to have. If I took my abilities for granted too much, I would stop trying and learning. For her sake, I would be less motivated to date her since I think she is already lucky to have me.
I went back to a book that my therapist recommended, Self-compassion, by Kristin Neff. I knew what self-compassion meant, and I reminded myself in my head how to think of it. The mentality of knowing that we are all trying our best despite fighting pain, stress, and egos. That no one has their sh*t together. But putting it into action is another challenge. Reading this book really put my mind back into the right place.
I felt like I was falling into intellectualization again. Whenever feelings and emotions came up that triggered my anxiety, I tried thinking my way above it or around it. Those nights lying in bed, feeling the wrath of the emotional storm plummet my self-worth. Not to mention bringing a lot of fire into my relationship with myself and my girlfriend.
I guess this is part of the game. My therapist did tell me it’s a regular practice and that I will likely fall down the track. Mindfulness and breathing are techniques I started to use, as mentioned in the book, and I also had to continually remind myself that I am human like everyone else. The bad emotions and feelings I am having are a universal experience. I have to remember to exercise, especially in the tough moments, to give myself kindness and love like I would to a best friend. Kristen taught me that self-confidence should come from a place of experience and connection. Everyone feels all these emotions good and bad to some degree. Resisting and trying to control these emotions in order to be liked or to be above others will just make the feelings stronger and harder to process.
Thus I’ve fallen off a bit from where I was trying to be. I promise to myself that I will keep on trying to be the best me for myself. That I need to be true to how I feel and use that to my best degree.
In this life, perfection is not possible. We are all winning or losing to some degree in some aspect of our life. It’s required that we aim to be our best selves, but making sure you are kind to yourself, that you love yourself. Make sure you feel everything that a human feels, and that shame is nothing but something that is exercised by all. We live a human experience shared by everyone else in the world. We all have a story to tell. We are all in this together.