It’s so much easier to be critical, to sling insults, to pick ourselves apart for our imperfections, to punish ourselves. It’s so much easier to scream (inside, of course; and let’s be honest, sometimes, out loud!) any version of: What’s wrong with me???
It’s so much easier to do all these things rather than be kind to ourselves, rather than be understanding and patient and gentle and supportive, rather than saying: I know this is really hard for you. I know this is uncomfortable and painful and unnerving. I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m sorry you’re struggling. I’m so sorry.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Nadeem Noor
But when we’re struggling, that’s exactly what we need. That’s exactly what we need when we’re feeling alone. When we’re feeling like the world’s biggest idiot. When we’re feeling unproductive and ineffective. When we’re feeling disgusting and disconnected from our bodies, and ourselves. When we’re feeling worthless. When we’re angry that we ate too much. When we’re angry that we’re angry about our weight gain. When we don’t want to get out of bed. When we can’t fall asleep. When moving feels impossible.
And, simply, kindness is what we need every day—even though it may not come easily or naturally or automatically.
One technique that I’ve found to be helpful in being kinder is to use my imagination, to shift my perspective. Here are some ideas which might help you, too:
- Imagine that you’re talking to your closest friend—and say that. Use those kind words. Use that kind tone. Empathize. Listen. Fully listen.
- Imagine that you’re talking to yourself at ages 7, 13 and/or 18—and say that.
- Picture your daughter (real or imagined) listening to you talking to yourself this way. How would you revise your inner dialogue? How would you want her to talk to herself? And say that.
- Imagine you’re trying to comfort your favorite grandparent—and say that.
- Imagine you’re trying to soothe a crying baby or child—and say that.
Pick your favorite perspective shifter, and jot it down. Or jot down what you’d say (if you’re talking to your closest friend or you at 13 or your grandma…and so on). Post it in several spots. I always recommend this, because when we’re in the thick of it, really in the thick of it, it’s hard to access comfort, calm and compassion. Having visual reminders can help us interrupt the self-critical cycle. Think of it like a bell that prompts your brain to breathe in kindness and breathe out hostility.
Just because self-compassion doesn’t come easily, naturally or automatically to you right now doesn’t mean that it will always be this way. This is why we practice.