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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

If this article resonated with you, please subscribe to my blog via email or let me know you liked it. I’d be honored to hear your story and continue sharing mine with you.

Living in the discomfort of the unresolved.

Right now, I’m living in a period of change and nearly constant trial-and-error.

I’ll readily admit that in my recent lifestyle changes and job transition, I’ve fallen back into my default mode where I feel the need to cram all my life experiences from day to day into either “good” or “bad,” “black” or “white.” My default mode does not tolerate the unresolved, in-between, not-sure-what-this-is, gray areas.

I don’t want unfinished. I don’t want “in progress,” “to be determined,” or “under construction.”

No. I want perfection, and I want it now. In my relationships, in my housekeeping, in my work, in my appearance, in everything. With the blinders of my human nature over my eyes, all I want is for things to be finished and tidy and wrapped up in neat little packages and put on a shelf so that I can live with peace of mind, all day, every day.

Yeah, okay, that sounds so great. Right?! Except life REALLY doesn’t lend itself to that idea… not now, and not ever.

In church on Sunday, the pastor told us all somewhere toward the end of his message to just take a moment and pray. He had a specific topic he wanted us to ask God about, something that related to his sermon. But, by that point I was thinking about lunch, and I zoned out on the guided prompt part (sorry, Lloyd).

Anyway, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and I nonchalantly prayed, “Well God, hey.  It’s been a while I guess. I’ve been working really hard at things and I feel like I’ve got my life sorta together for once, so I haven’t really needed to talk to you that much… so… yeah…”

Now, I’ve never audibly heard the voice of God, but He’s spoken to me before just by bringing things to my mind– images, phrases, memories. And I can’t explain it, but when it happens, I know it’s Him. So while I was halfheartedly telling Him that I didn’t need His help (which, LOL at that idea), I felt this powerful stirring in my soul, and He said, “Be still. Stop striving.”

Here’s what happened in my head in that moment:

… WHOA God is that you?! (spoiler alert, it was)

Like a true workaholic, my gut response was, “I don’t want to be lazy! I can’t just stop.”

His reply? “Laziness is irrelevant.”

Long pause.

“My grace is sufficient for you. Live in it.”

“Um. What. Striving is what got me success, right? Come on, I can’t just quit.”

Again, I just heard, “Be still.”

In this phase of my life, I’m living in the discomfort of the unresolved. Like most everyone, I experience conflict and pain, along with the daily worries of life, and I carry the weight that I can’t go to bed at night with all my ducks in a row.

Isn’t it just like God to speak right into the middle of that struggle I didn’t even know I was having? I thought I was doing fine on my own! Isn’t it just like Him to take a quiet moment, and show me how much I’ve been living by my own human tendencies?

My sinful, “default” mode of living comes with a huge desire want to fix everything I’m going through. I want to fix the hurt and the unfinished things in myself and in others. The voice of Satan (in the form of shame, as always) tells me I need to keep working my butt off to be in the “good,” day in and day out because that’s the only way to earn happiness, earn success, earn favor and earn love.

But God says, no. Just be still. He already favors and loves me because I’m His child. And what He wants from me now is to be still and live in the discomfort of all the unresolved, “in progress” things.

The verse literally says:

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted’ …” (Psalm 46:10)

It doesn’t say, “Keep scrambling 24/7 to put everything in an orderly category of black or white, and I will be exalted.”

To exalt Him, I must just BE STILL. Be still in the gray.

As much as I hate that notion, and as much as I’m trying to resist it and may always resist it as a human, I know deep down that He’s commanded us to be still. He doesn’t command us to run around like busybodies and try to keep everything perfectly tidy.

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re right there with me– trying to hold your life together (and maybe even feeling like you’re successful)– I think that constant striving is a sure sign that you need to be still. Take a deep breath, and let’s trust Him in the discomfort of the gray.

If this article resonated with you, please subscribe to my blog via email or let me know you liked it. I’d be honored to hear your story and continue sharing mine with you.