Make room in your heart for yourself: lessons in self-compassion

Make room in your heart for yourself: lessons in self-compassion
"Soft Landing," by Paul Jenkinson. Used with permission of a Creative Commons License, which you can find here

It’s been a crappy day, which I will not detail for you. (You’re welcome!) I’ll be the first to admit that I’m prone to pity parties. Woe is me. Life’s a bitch and then you die. Fill in your own favorite cliché

As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I stop. I’m in the last week of an eight-week online course in self compassion. When my friends tell me about their crappy days, I volunteer to punch someone for them. When I live through my own, I volunteer no support at all. I think I’m flunking this course.

I have a friend on Facebook, a person I’ve never met in real life, who has complained quite a few times about his crappy days. Each and every time he does, some of his “friends” say irritating things to him. Things like, “Yeah, buddy, life is hard all over” and “Turn that frown upside down.” They don’t say exactly these things, but you get the idea. They give him “tough love.”

Who am I to judge them? Maybe he deserves tough love. All I know is that I cringe when I read their comments and I really want to punch them on his behalf. (Clearly, I’m just the person to judge them.) I just can’t help feeling that he needs new friends.

He needs friends like mine, who would never meet my self pity with tough love. They are long-suffering and provide me a soft place to land. (And they volunteer to punch people for me.)

And then I realize that I treat myself like this guy’s friends treat him. I’d volunteer to punch myself but this is starting to feel like Fight Club.

Self compassion means making room in your heart for yourself. It means letting yourself feel the bad things and the self pity and then giving yourself a soft place to land. Instead of meeting those bad feelings with tough love or with shame, meet them with acceptance.

My day really was disappointing, and I think I should allow myself to feel disappointed, even to moan about it a bit. Remembering to comfort myself makes me better able to comfort others.

But there’s another part of self compassion that is powerful for me, a black and white thinker if there ever was one. The candle of my bad day doesn’t have to be fanned into the bonfire of depression. Giving myself a soft place to land means I don’t have to dive off a cliff.

It’s the next morning now, and as I’m finishing up writing this, I have a cat and a dog on my lap. There’s snow outside and the soft ticking of a clock inside. I can hear the movements of my family and the crunch of tires outside.

Next time I have a crappy day, I aim to make myself a soft place to land for awhile, a place to escape the noise of life and then to rest.

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