I’m listening to an incredible book by Kristin Neff entitled, Self-Compassion and it’s both breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. This is round two for me, as I read it years ago, and I am so much more deeply touched now that I am able to see how powerful a role self-compassion and love have played in my own healing of a perfectionistic, painful past and eating disorders. And though it’s taken me years to cultivate, I have kindness and gentleness for myself where there once was harsh criticism and judgement.
I understand, now, that I don’t need to strive for perfection, and that having flaws and making mistakes is a normal part of being a human. But we don’t live in a culture that supports this mindset, as speaking negatively towards oneself is seen as motivating, and, trying your best, isn’t enough, because, well, we’re never enough; no matter how hard we try.
While I listen to the words I’m overwhelmed by the power of self-compassion and how fundamental it is in the healthy development of not only humans, but animals as well. The need for it, as well as love and acceptance, is as essential as that of food and water. Sadly, many live our lives in a perpetual state of lack; never feeling as though we are measuring up, which is taking a toll on our mental, emotional, and physical health, energy, and is stealing our joy.
Day after day I sit with women who share with me how they regularly judge, criticize, and speak hurtful words to themselves, feeling like they’re always falling short. Throughout my consults I hear things like,
“If only I was more disciplined, I would eat healthier….”
“I feel so guilty when I don’t exercise, but I’m so tired….”
“I know I should be eating less sugar….”
“I was so bad the other night…”
And so on and so on. And these women I speak of? They’re moms, teachers, nurses, wives, caregivers, giving their all, trying to juggle life, personal struggles, and the curveballs that get thrown at them. It’s a heartbreaking theme that’s pervasive in our culture, where we’re constantly being told that we need to try harder. So, we push ourselves past our limits, force our bodies into smaller sizes by restricting food, and punish ourselves with exercise we hate and then wonder why we’re burned out, bingeing on cookies, and never wanting to leave our couches.
Rather than recognizing our need to slow down, or the fact that we’re trying to live up to unrealistic standards, we drown ourselves in shame for not being disciplined enough or being lazy; never offering ourselves the gentle embrace of self-compassion or considering that we’re doing the best we can, given the hand that we’ve been dealt.
Meet Yourself Where You are
No matter where you are right now, you need to know that it’s okay and that you only have so much to give. Also know that you have needs that, when unmet and coupled with the pressures from life, prevent you from caring for yourself the way you need to be cared for.
I encourage you to pause and recognize where you need compassion, while acknowledging how hard you’re already working. And that while you may be capable of doing many things, you don’t need to do it all; as trying to do so will only leave you feeling burned out, resentful, and stressed. And that, my friend, is going to do far more harm than clocking some extra time at the gym, when what you really need is to sit on the couch and put your feet up; which is perfectly ok.
Learn to accept the imperfect, flawed parts that make you beautifully human.
Warmly and compassionately,