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Self-compassion: Take a minute to un-hate yourself

We all have an inner critic. Some of us have developed healthy ways of dealing with its voice, and some of us listen to it because we don’t know there’s an alternative.

For me, it says things like:

“Geez, can’t you just get out of bed already? You’re so freakin’ lazy. Come on.”

“Wow, you’ve never screwed up this bad before. You must be hitting rock bottom.”

“You are so stupid. Why didn’t you prepare for this? Duh.”

“HEY YOU. GET IT TOGETHER. You idiot, you’re letting things slip through the cracks.”

Yesterday morning, I missed an appointment that had been on my calendar for almost a month. I straight up forgot it was there, and I was laying in my bed scrolling through Pinterest when I got the “hey, where are you?” call. Immediately, all of the thoughts I just just listed out above actually went through my head– verbatim.

Those thoughts are not harmless.

Here’s a few descriptors of how those words felt: Harsh. Condescending. Unfiltered. Un-loving.Un-compassionate. Unkind.

Truly, I’ve been listening to my inner critic an awful lot lately. I let it tell me my worth, which is why I’ve been depressed and unmotivated for several weeks now. I let it dictate my schedule and social interactions, which is why I don’t seem to leave my apartment unless I absolutely have to. I let it piece together my identity for me, which is why I’ve experienced more moments of self-loathing than ever.

Could I say those things to another human being without having a hugely negative impact on our relationship? HA. No way.

More importantly, would someone who loved me ever say those things about me?

Nope. Hence the problem– I have a hard time loving myself. Having compassion toward myself. Being kind to myself.

This morning after dragging myself out of bed (literally, I had to grip a piece of furniture for a moment to keep myself from going back), I sat for a moment in my apathy and the harsh voice went nuts. Then, something clicked, and I decided I didn’t want to feel like a worthless blob all day.

Worthless blobbing.

Worthless blobbing.

I made myself eat breakfast and have a glass of water. I wanted some coffee but didn’t want to take the time to grind the beans, wash the pot, blah blah blah, so I made a cup of tea instead. I grabbed my journal.

Now, I know based on experience that my self-compassion level is generally low. Last fall, when I took a class based on the teachings of my fave Brené Brown, one of the group leaders told us about a website based entirely on self-compassion. On more than one occasion, it has served as a great guide for those moments when my inner critic sends me into a spiral and I end up feeling like I’m drowning in complete self-hatred.

It’s easy to remember, too: it’s just self-compassion.org.

I know it’s a little out there, but the one that’s helped me so much is the “Self-Compassion Break,” which is essentially a short, guided meditation to remind you to love yourself.

As a side note, when I think of having to stop and force myself to love myself, this is the mental picture I get:

IMG_4910

STOP IT. I DO NOT NEED YOUR LOVE. JUST LET ME BE ANGSTY.

Anyway.

The one I did this morning was a writing exercise because, as you probably know if you’ve ever met me, I’m a writer. When I stopped to consider what had really put me in the pit this morning, it was my own negative thoughts, so I chose to do this one: Changing your critical self-talk.

The whole point of this post was just to tell you that your self-talk and the way you relate to yourself is SO incredibly important to the way you live your life. I know it sounds a little new-age-y, but if you aren’t aware of how you relate to yourself, and how you talk to yourself, you could really lose yourself and your identity if you let your inner critic take over.

More importantly, if your self-criticism is the guiding voice that you live your life by, you’ll miss the absolute truth of what God says about you.

Listen, I’m not here to give you a hunky dory solution for feeling bad about yourself. I’m not here to send you some fluff about improving your self esteem so you’ll feel happy. I’m here to tell you that the way you choose to relate to yourself has direct eternal results.

If you’re too busy telling yourself you suck when you mess something up, you’ll miss the opportunity to bask in the grace God has for you.

If you’re hung up convincing yourself that you’re hopelessly flawed, you’ll forget that the Creator of the Universe made you in HIS image, and he’s given you some good qualities to share with the world, therefore you’re not 100% flawed.

If you listen to that inner critic, pretty soon it’ll drown out the voice of the Lord, telling you that there’s hope and joy and peace in His presence.

So take a minute. Be still. Quiet your mind. And un-hate yourself so you can feel God’s love for you.

Here are a few resources that inspired this post:

  • A website full of research and exercises, created by Dr. Kristin Neff: self-compassion.org
  • message entitled “Psalm 12: God’s Words, Man’s Words,” on the importance of words from Dr. Michael Easley, Fellowship Bible Church in Brentwood, TN

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Dear Sprynkle

butterfly

Dear Sprynkle,

I may never know your real name, but “Sprynkle” was on your nametag, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget that name. We’ve never really met, technically. You were working in the drive thru at one of my favorite lunch spots near my office. It was a sunny, beautiful Friday. I had just finished a physical therapy appointment, and I needed something to eat before I went back to my job.

When I got to the window, I saw from the side that your right eye was bloodshot. Oh, it’s probably just a burst vessel, I thought. I hope Sprynkle feels better soon, I thought.

When you turned to face me, though, I saw that it wasn’t just a silly old burst vessel. In fact, it was an image that I will probably never be able to erase from my mind. Your cheekbone was dark blue and yellow, Sprynkle, and your right eye was red and inflamed right next to the swollen bruise.

Somehow, I don’t think that bruise came from a tumble down the stairs or a clumsy moment around the house.

I didn’t want to think about how that happened, Sprynkle, but I tried to choke out a “Have a good day” as I left your window, as if somehow my words and my smile would reach your heart and let it know it was loved. As soon as I drove away, though, all I wanted to do was go back, walk into that restaurant, and hug you and cry with you.

I don’t know how you would’ve reacted to that, Sprynkle, but as I sit at my desk hours later, you are still the only thing on my mind. Sprynkle, I’ve never been in your shoes, and I can’t relate to the turmoil you must be experiencing. But I felt such a draw to show you love, and now I feel I missed my chance to do that.

So Sprynkle, you may never read this. Maybe you will. Maybe someone else will who’s in your shoes. But you need to know that you are not alone.

When I got back to my office from my lunch break, I saw a butterfly on a bush right next to my car. It was black and blue. Sprynkle, you too carry black and blue, too. For a moment, when I saw that butterfly, I sat in my driver’s seat and cried gut-wrenching tears for you. My heart breaks for your pain, Sprynkle, and I wish with everything that there wasn’t so much hurt in this world so that people like you wouldn’t have to be the victim of someone else’s pain.

But Sprynkle, that butterfly also had some orange on its wings. And I’m betting you’ve got some hints of orange, too. That orange is what, you ask? It’s courage.

You, Sprynkle, deserve to be safe. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to be treated with respect. You don’t have to be trapped under whoever did that to you. You don’t have to live in fear of someone else. You have courage, and I pray with everything in me that you’ll be able to muster that courage someday very soon to walk away from danger and pain, and run toward safety.

Sprynkle, if I see you again, I hope I’ll have courage, too. The courage to offer hope in some way. I hope I’ll have the courage to let you know that there is someone right here in this city who can help you and keep you safe. More importantly, I hope I’ll have the courage to tell you that in that dangerous world, there is one safe place that we can all run to, and that place is really a being.

The safe place is a God who loves you enough to die for you, Sprynkle, and He’s got his arms outstretched, waiting for you. Yes, you.

That same God created you and knit you together with a purpose, Sprynkle. He also made that butterfly, that beautiful black, blue, and orange butterfly.

As for the black, blue, and orange that you carry, Sprynkle, it can be redeemed, and made into something wonderful, just like that butterfly I saw.  Just like a butterfly goes through a change, God can use a dark and scary time to redeem your experiences. Sprynkle, I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again. But just know that I’m praying for God to show you your orange, to show you the courage that only He can give.

You are fearfully made, and your life has a purpose, Sprynkle. You can always be held in God’s hands, hands that will never harm you or bring you pain.

My heart breaks for you, Sprynkle, but I know there is a God in heaven. I know that He loves you. I know that if I ask Him to intervene in your life, He will.

And until then, Sprynkle, you’ve opened my eyes. I cannot “un-see” your pain. And today, I can no longer go through my life taking things for granted. I cannot sit at my desk job that pays me enough to live comfortable and complain. I cannot sit in my cozy apartment that I can adequately afford and wish I had something fancier. I cannot look at the man I love—the man who would never harm me for anything—and take his kind, gentle heart for granted any longer.

Oh how I wish I could thank you for that realization, and again, hug you, cry with you and remind you that you are so very worthy of a kind, gentle man to love you, too.

So Sprynkle, all that I can say is that you are loved. You are wanted. You are beautifully broken, and there is a God in heaven that wants to hold your broken pieces and heal your wounds.

And I pray that just as he rescued me from my selfishness and ungratefulness today, he will rescue you from your pain and capture and heart.

“Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” Deuteronomy 3:22