I’ve been told never to pray for patience, because you get a lot of, uhhh….opportunities to practice. As I watched a couple of children goof around while I was standing in line the other day, I realized how much more patience I have these days with kids and even my own child…it only took 19 years. (Some of you caught that.)
Well, I didn’t pray for more self-compassion, not directly anyhow, however, I have been (still am) getting ample opportunities to practice. IT. IS. AW-FUL! Especially for a self proclaimed perfectionist, because by “opportunities” I really mean mistakes. I’m literally considering praying for patience; it seems much more obtainable.
On many occasions, I’ve had friends or acquaintances comment on the fact that I am so incredibly hard on myself. I didn’t really understand what they meant. How else was I supposed to know whether I was doing right or wrong? How was I supposed to be better and keep improving if I wasn’t hard on myself?
I often wondered what other people had going on in their minds, did they have a secret that I didn’t or did they just not give a damn if they were good or bad? Also, were their minds completely silent? My inner critic was a constant chatter from the time I woke up until I fell asleep and probably in my dreams too. My inner critic is very harsh and not only can I “hear” it, I can actually feel it in my body when I am in that rigid, harsh, belittling space.
I have done a lot of healing over the years and the critic has somewhat subsided in volume and harshness. However, I recently had an incident where I made a mistake while driving and misjudged the speed of an oncoming car as I was trying to pass another vehicle, and by the grace of God, we were not involved in what most likely would have been a devastating if not fatal accident. Immediately (within 2 seconds of whispering, “thank you, God.”), I went into a deep spiral of shame, belittling and berating myself for my stupidity. I fell back into a dark and desperate place that I hadn’t been to in a really long time, I felt worthless, stupid, and basically thought I was the scum of the earth. I went down the crazy lane with my thoughts, my friends were going to hate me, my parents were going to be disappointed, I’d probably get kicked out of every group I was involved in and I would be the shame of the town. No one would forgive me. I couldn’t tell anyone, this had to be kept secret. Yes, you read it right. There was no accident, it was a near miss, it could have been tragic, but it wasn’t, and this is only a quick snip-it of the thoughts that raced through my mind.
Thankfully, I was on the way to meet some friends and one of them noticed that I wasn’t quite myself and inquired about my well-being. At that moment, as I tried to push a “I’m fine” smile across my face and nod that I was okay, I broke. Tears that had been trained to stay in place from years of repressing feelings started streaming down my face uncontrollably, hot, messy and without hope of them stopping anytime soon. It was at this moment I was going to lose everything, the truth would be revealed. As I began to explain, I braced myself, shoulders locked back, poised to withstand the brunt force of the anger and disappointment I knew was coming my way. Instead I was met with open arms, love and kindness. They shared stories of their own near misses and driving errors. All of a sudden I found myself laughing along with them at our lapses of judgement and expressing pure gratitude that nothing more serious had happened. Grace, forgiveness and compassion flooded over me. My body released all of the tension it held from anticipation.
Something I had heard for years, but hadn’t quite grasped, “the more grace you have for yourself, the more you can give others,” finally rang true for me. I knew I had much more grace and forgiveness for others than I would ever have for myself. I can’t imagine ever having the same thoughts or speaking the same words to anyone else that I did/do to myself. How could I possibly have more for others if I gave to myself? Yet, there in that moment, I was experiencing compassion, grace and forgiveness for MYSELF (even if only borrowed from those ladies at the time). I was so filled, it began pouring out of me as memories of past hurts, frustrations and resentments flooded my thoughts. I experienced a freedom from baggage that had followed me for years, most of which I thought I had either stuffed far enough down, forgotten or had mentally resolved already. Another layer of healing had begun.
This is only one example I’ve been through recently while GETTING to practice self-compassion. I’ve got a list, perhaps we can chat about a few sometime.
- Leaving my friends water on while they were out of town…for 24 HOURS!
- Losing my bonus because I turned in invoices 2 DAYS before the end of the quarter instead of holding them until after the first of the month.
- Dropping oily food on my brand new grey shirt that I said I didn’t need but ended up with it anyway…8 MINUTES after I bought it.
- Backing into a light pole because I was trying to miss the curb.
- Pulling out in front of someone…not once but twice (thankfully not nearly as scary as the above example). I didn’t even want to write this one out, I will probably never have a passenger again.
- Spilling my coffee on my lap, dropping my breakfast and then knocking over something else while trying to clean up that mess.
Some of these seem trivial and silly, however, the inner critic I hear is generally of the same degree of relentless beratement, regardless of the offense. Some of these I was able to move into self-compassion much easier and others I didn’t even realize how much I was cutting myself down until a few days later when boiled over in a different area of my life. Healing is not easy work, and it’s not a One and Done (obviously, see list above) but I am moving forward and into greater freedom. Today I live a life worth living.
Be patient, be gentle, be kind…especially to yourself.
“Our successes and failures come and go – they neither define us nor do they determine our worthiness.”Kristin Neff
PS. A quick THANK YOU to those of you that inquired about my next post, you encouraged me to keep going and to sit my butt down and write about the hard things. If it weren’t for you, I may have given up on this venture entirely, writing it off (pun intended) as something I tried for a bit and maybe I’d pick it up at a later time, knowing that later would never come.