Tag Archive: self compassion



I realize as I embark on today’s mission of blogging about things like body image, and appreciating our positive qualities and learning to like ourselves, that this subject alone should be a three part series! I am attempting to do the impossible in one blog! I will do my best to summarize without losing a great deal of content!

While in general, for a person who wrestles with their body image when they look in the mirror, it may be easy to see all the flaws, wrinkles, bulges, grey hair, and within seconds of asking the question of what you like least about your body, you could easily rattle off about 50 things you hate about the way you look.

Let’s begin with a simple exercise in non-judgment. Instead of looking at ourselves in comparison with what society and media says the average man or woman should look like, let us rather appreciate the beauty in others and in ourselves, and try not to make comparisons or judgments. It’s an effort in changing the way we think about ourselves, as well as what is important.

The reality is, outward beauty will always fade away eventually, and if this is what we live for, we are missing a deeper, more authentic and internal beauty of strength and character. I am not saying “Don’t be fit”, “Eat junk food all day long” and just let yourself go. By no means! I am suggesting that we care for our bodies, spirit, soul and body. We all know eating healthy, and staying fit is good for our bodies in a multitude of ways… Exercising regularly and eating well not only help mental acuity and promote healthy a heart, and make our brains happier, but it also does so much for helping with emotional issues such as depression and anxiety! I believe we need to learn to care about our whole self, simply because we are worth it.

Our worth is intrinsic and God given. What we need to determine is WHY we do what we do. If we are at the gym 5 days a week out of pressure to look good according to society, bearing ourselves up for not losing enough weight, or eating too much at the last family holiday dinner, these motives can actually be harmful to us, and do not promote healthy self care. If, however, we are learning to have compassion for ourselves and learning to like who we are, and are doing these things to be healthy and to care for ourselves, not only will your success and results come sooner, but you will also notice you are beginning to feel much better about yourself as a person. What you see in the mirror will be someone you care for and treat with respect and honor and love.

So how do we get there? Paying attention to the negative messages we are telling ourselves and believing is a good start. Noticing them enough to reframe the message to something positive or to simply say ‘stop’ to ourselves when we begin to judge ourselves harshly, and practice non-judgment of ourselves is a good start.

I’m going to propose a few steps further.

First, I’m going to ask you to write a list of ten positive things about yourself that are true and realistic. For instance, you might recognize that you are a loyal friend, or that you are very organized, a good listener, or compassionate and empathetic. You might like the fact that you take charge of a situation when it is needed, or are an advocate for those who need one. You might believe that you are responsible or successful. Make a list of these qualities. They can be internal character traits or external, such as you might like your eyes even though you aren’t happy with your current weight. You might like that tattoo you have that expresses who you are or that you are talented and athletic.

Are you, or have you been recently,

Kind to anyone?
Clean?
Helpful or handy?
Humorous in a way that helped another person?
Trustworthy or loyal?
Gentle?
Determined?
Strong or resilient?
Do you see the best in others?
Are you patient?
Disciplined?
Imaginative or creative?
Persuasive?
Intelligent?
Co-operative?
Open-minded?
Accepting?
Expressive?
Energetic?
Affectionate?
A leader?
A good story teller?
Adventurous?
A thinker?

You should have a pretty good list by now to get the juices flowing! Are you already starting to feel less negative about yourself if you find yourself identifying with anything on the above list?

Once you have your list, try repeating it to yourself daily for a while. It helps to re-wire your mind and train your Brian how to think using new neural pathways that are more positive toward yourself. If you have just done this exercise, you have just been kind to yourself and loving! Way to go!

If you struggle with negative physical body image, focus on six areas of yourself physically that you DO like, and repeat that to yourself daily! Often we see ourselves externally in a way that we allow to affect how we view our core worth. Our core worth does not come from anything external. We simply have worth. But for the purpose of this exercise, to help you get to that understanding, look at yourself in the mirror several times a day and look for things that are ‘right’ about your body and physical appearance and find what you feel is attractive about yourself. This too, is caring about yourself, despite what others think, say or do, increasing your own sense of intrinsic worth which is not dependent on such externals like other’s opinions or popular media ideals.

Next, let’s take a look at the deeper part of the self. Your character. Your moral values and strengths you possess in these areas. As they say, beauty is only skin deep. If all you have is the outward looks, but are empty inside, you will become a shell of a person. The charisma of a person comes from what is on the inside and flows outward. Let’s look at the inward beauty you possess, which miraculously, automatically makes you more beautiful outwardly!

Which qualities from the list below do you identify with and feel are attributes you possess? Mental note, do not look at this list from a place of judgment of yourself for each quality you don’t identify with. Without counting a score, or getting down on yourself for what you don’t relate with, simply take a few moments to enjoy the qualities YOU possess! We are all unique and have our own gifts, skills and talents. None of us were meant to all possess all qualities. Variety is the spice of life!

Do you feel like you have:

Integrity?
Love?
Empathy?
Knowledge?
Affection?
Compassion?
Patience?
Respect for others? Yourself?
Willing to admit your faults?
Honesty?
Helpfulness?
Thoughtfulness?
Supportive?
Tolerance or appreciation for diversity?
Trustworthy?
Forgiveness?
Hope?
Selflessness?
Friendliness?
Courtesy?
Appreciation?
Gentleness?

Your challenge today is to combat your negative self judgments with anything positive from the lists above that you identified with, and repeat them to yourself and remind yourself to have compassion toward yourself and self care by being loving toward yourself!

Good luck!


Each one of us has within us weak parts of our character, defined by psychologists as an Achilles heel based on the Greek myth of Achilles and his mother Thetis. According to legend, when he was born, his mother, in an effort to make him immortal, took Achilles to the Styx river and dropped him. She held him by one heel. The area she held him on his heel remained dry and was not touched by the water in the river. It was the one vulnerable place on Achilles. Years later, Achilles was the hero of many great battles during the Trojan War. Legend suggests Paris, Prince of Troy, shot an arrow in his heal in the spot untouched by the waters to make him immortal. Since that spot remained untouched by the waters of immortality, the arrow struck him there and he died.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In modern day psychology, they loosely take this concept to define that there is usually at least one dominant negative attitude or defensive and possibly destructive pattern of thinking, feeling or acting. We all have at least one lifelong chief character flaw or personality defect.

Now how, you may ask, is this going to help me with my sense of worth? Bear with me, as I unpack this a little further and we learn together how to appreciate our strengths, but also to have compassion for our weaknesses.

According to psychologists, our chief feature (dominant negative attitude) is our primary ego defense as well as our main stumbling block in life.

The seven chief features they suggest are:

Self-Depreciation
(belittling/diminishing/undervaluing oneself)

Self-Destructiom
(sabotaging/punishing/harming oneself)

Martyrdom
(reacting as if persecuted/victimized/oppressed)

Stubbornness
(resisting change in one’s life)

Greed
(selfish over-indulgence, over consumption)

Arrogance
(inflating/exalting/overvaluing oneself)

Impatience
(reacting as though being sabotaged/obstructed)

I bring this up for a very important reason. Those of us who identify with one or more (or maybe all, and that’s ok… Have compassion for yourself! 🙂 from the above list , will understand why this has much to do with your feelings about yourself.

For those of us who wrestle with self-depravation will identify with feelings of inadequacy, or perhaps you identify with the feeling of loss of control that accompanies self-destructive tendencies. The Martyrs among us may feel worthless about themselves. Stubbornness may cause the fear of change or new situations. Psychologists associate greed with fearing lack or not having enough. Those who wrestle with arrogance fear their vulnerability, and the impatient may fear missed or lost opportunities.

We can all relate to feeling either unlovable, worthless, rejected, and a host of other core issues that seem to plague us for a lifetime without the appropriate tools to overcome the self-defeating beliefs we cling to.

Today I simply want to remind you that your core worth does NOT diminish because of any of your weaknesses. Nor does it increase because of your personal strengths or external accomplishments. You may ‘feel better’ about yourself for a time when you succeed, but if your worth comes from something extrinsic (an outside source – such as performance, or people’s approval), your level of a perceived sense of worth will rise and fall like the tides in the sea. In out, up, down, swayed by a negative comment about your weight or performance at work, or a personal expectation you set for yourself that you failed to meet.

But IF your worth is intrinsic, your motivation is not determined by external factors, but rather it occurs because we ate driven to do something because we want to learn, change, grow or be healthy, or just because it’s fun and interesting to us, or because, most importantly, we recognize that our worth is innate and God – given, we will not do the things we do for fear of punishment or to gain a reward or approval. Rather, our motivation will come from loving ourselves compassionately and loving others.

If we care about ourselves in a healthy way and not excessive self-love (arrogance/pride/narcissism) we will do what we need to do to learn, grow and change unhealthy patterns of behavior or unhealthy eating patterns.

Self compassion for our weaknesses involves caring about ourselves in a deep way in order to heal these dysfunctions, rather than allow them to perpetuate as we sabotage ourselves by keeping the unhealthy habits around. Change is hard, it takes work and it takes time! Have a little patience for yourself!

“Self acceptance does not breed complacence. On the contrary, kindness, respect, encouragement, support, firm but caring discipline… These are the soil and climate for development.” – Author Unknown

Keep in mind, “Self criticism asks ‘am I good enough? Self compassion asks ‘what’s good for me?'”

Try asking yourself the following if you wrestle with any of the above – ESPECIALLY WHEN you are wrestling with judgment or self criticism or self sabotaging thoughts… Or even if you’ve just been pushing yourself too hard and know your body needs a break:

“what would be the most healthy and most self-compassionate thing for me to do right now?”

Try to listen to your body, and to your heart, to it’s core needs, and find ways to nurture your inner self, not your self sabotaging needs like eating the WHOLE chocolate cake!!!

In closing today, I will leave you with some core thoughts of self esteem that you can try telling yourself as well! And remember to monitor your judgments -of other’s AND yourself and replace those judgments with these types of thoughts:

1. I think well of myself. This is a good thing.
2. I accept myself because I am more than my mistakes, or any externals.
3. I can criticize my own behavior without questioning my worth as a human being.
4. The work I do is worthwhile and good quality, and I expect I will do many worthwhile things in the future.
5. I am aware of my strengths and I respect them.
6. I am aware of my weaknesses and show myself compassion for them. I trust I can change & improve.
7. I consider myself a worthwhile person.
8. I like myself without comparison to others.
9. I feel stable and secure inside because I regard that I have intrinsic core worth.
10. I expect others to like and respect me. If they don’t, that’s ok. My worth does not come from other people.

One more time… Just so it starts to stick: your worth does not come from anything external. It is intrinsic and God given and does not depend on anything external, it is unconditional, just as the love of God is unconditional.

You are worth it!

“There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear. Fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect by love.” I John 4:18


Why Self Esteem? Experts appear to agree that a healthy sense os self worth and value helps contribute to better health, physically and emotionally, improves cognitive function, and general performance, while a lack of self esteem, or low self-worth, or even self-hatred, contribute to a host of problem areas, including:

Depression
Stress & Anxiety
Entering into abusive or unhealthy relationships
Alcohol Abuse
Eating Disorders & Unhealthy Dieting
Poor communication
Hostility
Low performance & achievement
Dependency
Withdrawal, Isolation & Loneliness
Preoccupation with Problems.

It’s amazing how the way we view ourselves can affect so many areas of our life. It also amazes me how many of us struggle with being our own worst internal critic, sabotaging ourselves by believing messages that simply aren’t true of ourselves, and judging ourselves harshly and over-critically, rather than showing ourselves compassion.

Kristin Neff, author of the book, “Self Compassion”, suggests that when wrongdoers are treated with compassion rather than harsh condemnation, cycles of conflict and suffering can be broken!” She also openly claims that “if we were perfect, we wouldn’t be human; we’d be Barbie & Ken.” acknowledging the weakness and imperfections of our humanity. She sites Jesus as an example when he said “Let him without sin cast the first stone’, and later, as he hung dying on the cross, he said, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ The message was clear: we need to have understanding and compassion for even the worst wrongdoers, ourselves included.”

Why are we such harsh critics of our weaknesses, failings and mistakes? Doing so only leads to greater depression, self hatred, addictions, and further self sabotage and pain. When we grow up in a less than thriving environment, it is as if our brains are hard wired to be drawn to repeat those same patterns throughout life. Abused, we either become abusive or look for abusive relationships, subconsciously, as an example. While this is not always the case, as there are exceptions, generally if we grew up with a lack of nurture, sense of safety, role reversal relationships, abuse, excessive alcohol use, we grow up in an environment that lacks the proper breeding ground for our brains to function with a positive self image. See my previous articles on brain re-training to understand how our brains work and the information they take in, and how they are able to re-wire previous negative circuitry of the brain to involve higher brain functioning to overcome the negative patterns of thinking that decrease our sense of self worth. While this is a fascinating subject to me, and I will likely blog more on this topic in coming months, I do not want to get too far of track by getting too technical in this blog!

Here’s a little self esteem checkup taken from the book, “The Self Esteem Workbook”, which I highly recommend you to read if you struggle at all with self esteem.

Rate from 0-10 how much you believe the following statements. This will give you an idea of where you are currently in you sense of self esteem.

1. I am a worthwhile person.
2. I am as valuable as a person as anyone else.
3. I have the qualities I need to live well.
4. When I look into my eyes in the mirror I have a pleasant feeling.
5. I don’t feel like an overall failure.
6. I can laugh at myself.
7. I am happy to be me.
8. I like myself, even when others reject me.
9. I love and support myself, regardless of what happens.
10. I am generally satisfied with the way I am developing as a person.
11. I respect myself.
12. I’d rather be me than anyone else.

Next rate yourself from 0-100 on a scale from total lack of self esteem, to total fullness of self esteem.

Where does you gut tell you you fit on that scale? Now ask yourself why that is. See what answers come to the surface. This is the beginning of paying attention to what your core needs are.

For the next month, I will be spending every Friday blogging about self image and self worth.

Today is simply an intro on how to build self esteem.

I will leave you today with a definition of what self esteem is, and the foundations of building self esteem. Next Friday we will delve a little deeper.

What is Self Esteem?

“Self Esteem is a realistic, appreciative liking of oneself. Realistic means accurate and honest. Appreciative implies positive feelings and liking.” – The Self Esteem Workbook

Self Esteem involves self confidence. A belief in one’s abilities. It involves accepting yourself, having compassion for yourself, looking at yourself as neither less than or greater than others, with proper humility and awareness that all of humanity involves weakness and imperfections, with grace for both ourselves and others mistakes.

The Foundation of self esteem involves three things; like building blocks, these three attributes build self esteem:

1. Unconditional Worth.
2. Love
3. Growing

These three building blocks help build a proper, healthy working sense of self esteem.

Stay tuned. Over the next few weeks I hope to equip you with some solid tools to get your sense of self worth out of the gutter, and moving in a more positive direction! It IS possible to retrain our brains, it’s just like physical exercise, it takes work to examine what we are thinking, and consciously taking an effort to think more positively of ourselves. Visualize yourself in the ideal situation, that your needs are met, that you are happy and fulfilled… Apparently, according to research, simple exercises like this DO help. Even if you don’t believe it, spending a few minutes thinking like this, empowers our brain to feel happier, in just the same way that smiling, even if forced, “activates significant areas of the brain – good mental therapy. So at least once in a while, force yourself to laugh or smile, even if you…are smiling through your tears… Get your facial muscles moving!” – Susan Anderson, Taming the Outer Child, A revolutionary program to overcome self-defeating patterns. (Also another highly recommended read!)

That’s it for today, so go ahead… Smile. Even if it’s forced, it triggers neurons in your brain that help the process of retraining our brains to live a healthier lifestyle, and move up the ladder of self esteem.

I will leave you with one last piece of food for thought… To get you thinking about your needs and how to show self compassion to those needs. Take a look at the photo below from Maslov’s hierarchy of needs:

Have a great day!


One might imagine in a fairy tale world that giving love and receiving love are actually quite normal, straightforward, and even… Simple? Yet, why is it that it is not always so in the real world? What is it that crosses the wires somehow and there is a malfunction, or a ‘short circuit in some relationships where receiving love is actually quite difficult?

First of all, let’s take a quick look at some basics. Everyone of us has different ways we ‘feel’ loved. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages”, he narrows these love languages down to five categories: words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. For those of you unaware of this book, you may already be having an ‘aha’ moment as an example floods your mind why you never feel loved by your husband when he doesn’t buy you roses, but if he spends lots of quality time with you and that’s not your primary love language, you barely notice his attention. Or on the other hand, if she’s always buying you gifts, but rarely massages your back, or runs into your arms for an embrace, if touch is your love language, you may feel unwanted or even unattractive to your wife.

And then there’s the gender differences of course. His needs, her needs, right? She needs to feel close (and yet her definition of closeness is different than yours, most likely!). He needs sexual intimacy. Her ideas of intimacy are slightly different. Yes, she wants sex, but she wants to bond in an emotional way, involving openness and communication, and he rarely understands what she means by that. He needs to feel respected, she needs to feel cherished and valued, like she is a treasure, not an object. She wants loyalty, faithfulness and commitment, he likes to provide and protect, and be valued for it. He likes to ‘fix’ the problem, to be valued for his insights, she wants him to just be a sounding board… He wants to counsel, she says “just listen!”.

With all of that going on, is it any wonder we ever have good working relationships at all. Especially with the opposite gender… Or a completely different personality type. Don’t let me even bring that into the equation! With all the differing personality types out there, it takes a lot of work and a lot of ‘preferring’ each other, a lot of asking clarifying questions to determine just how someone not only wants… But needs to be loved.

But that’s just the intro. Then you get into the baggage you are bringing with you from past relationships, and even your primary parental relationships might come with some set expectations of how things are to be, how one should love, etc. So we have individual love languages, gender differences in needs, bad breakups, and past experiences, what we were brought up with re: family values, ideas, etc, let alone coming from a family past that was abusive, or where there was a failure to thrive, neglect, etc. and then add on top of all of that, the ideal romantic chick flick of the fairy tale happy ever after story, with all the social requirements of perfect body image, the culturally defined expectations of what a man is to be, and what a woman is to be, some too good to be true, and others simply superficial, with no real guidance in learning how to give and really receive love.
Keep in mind, I am not bashing anyone, nor am I jaded by life, I simply see the facts and contributing factors that there are a lot of pressures and demands and ideals and expectations and assumptions… And don’t forget baggage- that we drag into every relationship we enter.

Phew. Tough stuff, and yet somehow, there are massive success stories and happily ever after tales after all. But they are HARD work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But when it comes to receiving love… There is a certain part of the population that generally has a real hard time with it. Giving may come a lot more naturally. When someone offers to pay for your dinner, is it easy or difficult to accept? Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

Are you reluctant, or feel incapable of asking for what you need or want? Can you express what you like or dislike in the relationship openly? Even in the sexual department? When you get what you want, are you satisfied, or is there still a hole inside? Like you are detached and disconnected from the happy emotions that usually accompany receiving an emotional need you have?

If so, there may be some of that ‘baggage’ we were just discussing going on beneath the surface.
If you lack the ability to truly bond and feel connected with another person, you may not have bonded with a primary caregiver in your early development years, or have undergone abuse of any kind. Neglect can cause a person to feel very isolated in their soul. Addictions can cause isolation, especially sex addiction, as it tends to rip apart the ability to really connect in an intimate way heart to heart, soul to soul, with your partner. Why? Because often deep shame accompanies it, which no one is comfortable to admit, and shame rips apart self-esteem. Low self esteem is a major player for sure, and can be for any number of reasons and begin at any time in life, usually accompanying some traumatic event. Rejection can tear at our sense of worth and esteem. On and on the list goes on. If you live with a split sense of self, like you can only project the ‘good’ or capable side of yourself, performing your way through life, you likely don’t connect very deeply with others as you wrestle to risk enough to let someone see the less than perfect parts of yourself.

I would highly recommend reading the book “Receiving Love” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D & Helen Lakely Hunt, Ph.D for some great insights. Even if you are not the psychology nerd that I am and are not as much interested in “why” you feel you cannot receive love, there are some great exercises at the end of the book that you can practice with your partner if you really want to try and overcome the inability to receive love.

I will leave you with a couple of starter ideas that my husband and I have tried that really work.

One of the exercises we tried was to tell each other 5 things we were grateful for each day that the other person had done that we felt was loving.

Another idea is to create a gift list. Write down the things you want on your list (if you are working with a modest budget, keep that in mind while writing your list. Don’t make it unattainable. When you are finished, you swap lists and the other person is responsible to randomly give you that gift. If you both purpose to do this, it can be a very beneficial practice in allowing yourself to receive. It doesn’t even have to cost money. It could be “I would feel like it was a gift if you picked up after yourself and put your dirty clothes in the hamper!” or perhaps, dancing in the rain or some cities have the movies under the stars idea where they show free movies in a park that could serve as a free romantic night… The sky is the limit. The purpose is practice!!

Emotional flooding is another great exercise where you sit down with each other and just tell each other all the wonderful things you love about them, their natural abilities and talents, appearance, character qualities you admire, etc.

The book I just mentioned contains the above examples (I believe there is more to each assignment though) and many more.

Just remember this, if you forget everything else that I have said: you were created with divine purpose, in the image of God, loved by God, and were created to be loved, to be able to give and receive love, and no matter what anyone else says or thinks about you: you are worthy to be loved. Let go of that self critical voice affirming all the reasons you can’t be loved, and start changing the message: write a list of why you should be loved, why you are lovable right now, and have some compassion for yourself! The bible actually puts it quite well when it says to love others as you love yourself. In fact, most faiths share this golden rule. It is difficult to love others truly if you cannot see enough value in yourself to love yourself. If that seems too difficult, start with this: ask yourself “what do I like about myself?” and begin repeating those messages as affirmations regularly. You may be surprised how quickly you begin to see value in yourself. You are doing the work of building your self esteem. Don’t sabotage it by the self criticism. Pay attention to its voice as it creeps in, and let the sentence end midair as you breathe in an affirmation about your worth and intrinsic value!

Have a great weekend!


Self compassion. What is it?

To understand this concept better, we must first understand the concept of self worth. For people who generally already have a pretty good sense of self esteem and who recognize that their worth does not come from something external, such as how you perform or whether you are accepted or rejected by the people you love, self compassion is a relatively easier concept to understand. These people have either taken in enough emotional object constancy from their formative years and taken in enough nurture and love from their parents at that crucial stage of development, that they have enough love within themselves to understand self compassion. Or, they have learned the tools to develop a positive sense of self esteem later on in life. And yes! Self-esteem can be taught, learned and appropriated!

It is for those who have come from a more traumatic background of neglect or abuse of any kind or who lacked the nurturing or a stable, consistent environment while growing up who will likely find this subject of most value. A stable consistent environment can include anything from receiving consistent messages of worth and value as a person, not by what you do or don’t do, but just for who you are, to having steady, consistent people in your life, to living in the same neighborhood, growing up with the same kids from your school to increase the sense of bondedness and connection. Kids who grow up with one parent who has several partners who come and go frequently lack the steadiness of knowing both parental figures will be there for them. When families move frequently to different cities, uprooting their kids and planting them in new schools every couple of years or so, even if it is necessary for work related reasons, the child learns to adapt, but not to feel a sense of consistency or attachment with peers, which is also essential for the stability necessary to build into a child a healthy sense of connectedness. Even those who grow up with healthy parenting can be affected by low self worth for a variety of reasons. No family is perfect, and you may miss out on one or two of the essential pieces necessary to build a strong sense of worth, as in the above examples. The nurturing may be there, but moving a lot can affect the child, or if the nurture is inconsistent, or a variety of other factors may affect one’s sense of self esteem. So the bottom lime is, everyone can benefit by understanding more about self worth and where it comes from. So let’s take a look at a simple definition of it, before we unpack how to build that self esteem by introducing self compassion.

Self esteem is a realistic and appreciative opinion of oneself. Realistic meaning an honest and accurate assessment of yourself. It involves having positive feelings toward the self. It involves the ability to know that you have worth regardless of external circumstances.

Trauma has a way of re-wiring the brain to de-rail one’s sense of worth. What then begins to happen is that a person begins subconsciously speaking negative messages to the self. “I am not lovable because I was abused” or “I can only be worth something if I perform well” or telling oneself messages like “I’m a failure.” “no one loves me.” “I’m worthless.” “It would be better if I were dead”, etc. These are a few examples of negative self talk. The more you listen to these subtle statements, the worse they become. A person can begin to self-sabotage themselves and give in to self pity, or reject love when it is offered by dismissing it with reasons and assumptions as to why it can’t be true that someone loves us. Why? Because we have re-programmed our brain to only listen to negative messages that we use as a wall to protect ourselves. That’s right! Pain can be a protector. So can anger and rage. Anger and rage turned inward on ourselves is deadly to self worth. The sad thing is, most of this is going on subconsciously as we go about our day to day life, battling depression, despair, or self hatred, not realizing where it stems from, due to a lack of mindfulness about what we are allowing our minds to dwell on. There is a lot of research on how our brains work, and in many studies revealing ways to by-pass the trauma centers of our brain to re-route as it were, by reformatting the messages the brain is taking in. I do not have the time to go into that further. But the point is, there is sufficient evidence that our brains can learn new messages. We do not have to stay in trauma forever!

The bible suggests that ‘ whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” Philippians 4:8 NIV

This is good advice and wise counsel. Buddhism and Psychology also offer good tools for paying attention to what we are thinking about, called Mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is the practice of skillfully managing our attention and awareness. Attention regulation leads directly to emotional regulation.”

” Mindfulness is…knowing what you are experiencing WHILE you are experiencing it. Moment to moment awareness. Paying attention to our stream of perceptions rather than our interpretations of them… It is both knowing where our mind is from moment to moment AND directing our attention in skillful ways.”

The above quotes are from the book “The Mindful path to Self Compassion” by Christopher K. Germer, PhD.

The bible discusses this concept as well when it instructs us to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Joyce Meyer teaches on this concept as well, to “think about what you’re thinking about” instead of carelessly allowing destructive thoughts to take up residence in your mind.

Before I get into self compassion, I must look at the flip side of the coin. There are those who dwell on pain and allow pain to be their protector. The same applies to self hatred. But, there is another aspect to take a quick look at. Studies show that the mind naturally wants to avoid distressful events and uses denial and all sorts of other coping mechanisms like projecting our distress on others, etc. The problem with this is that denial amplifies the problem. Seeking pleasure or addictions to numb pain are temporary fixes that inevitably make things worse for us later on.

“The ability to see things as they are, with acceptance, gets us through.” (taken from the book, the mindfulness of self compassion, Again.)

Suppression actually ends up becoming preoccupied by what is trying to be avoided, causing all sorts of anxiety, self hatred, depression, etc.

“New research suggests that establishing a new relationship with our thoughts and feelings, rather than directly challenging them, makes the difference. This new relationship is less avoidant, less entangled, more accepting, more compassionate and more aware. Leaning into our problems with open eyes and open hearts – with awareness and compassion – is the process by which we get relief…Resistance creates suffering. Acceptance alleviates it.” (The Mindfulness of self compassion)

Now acceptance is not embracing and feeding the negative emotions and coddling them and making them right at home where they can wreak havoc on our souls, but rather to take a look at what is happening in our emotions. I have had it explained to me to try and look at those problematic emotions as a cloud passing by in the sky. You watch it with interest, apply compassion, and allow it to move on.

“Self compassion is a form of acceptance. Whereas acceptance usually refers to what’s happening to us -accepting a feeling or a thought- self compassion is acceptance of ourselves while we are in pain… Self compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.”

“Mindfulness says ‘feel the pain’ and self compassion says ‘cherish yourself in the midst of the pain.'”

The bible, as does like every other religious teaching out there, the golden rule: To love others as you love yourself.

I invite you to practice kindness toward yourself. Give yourself grace for when you feel like you have failed at something. Every time you want to automatically criticize yourself, you are hurting yourself by engaging in self-sabotage. Some of you believe that is all you are worth. It is a lie in it’s ugliest form. We were all made in the image of God and are dearly loved by Him. We were all designed with dignity and incredible worth. My heart goes out to those of you who believe you aren’t worth much. My advice: If there are people who are contributing to this message of a lack of worth in you, that you separate yourself from them, at least for a time, to begin to practice self compassion and self worth, until you recognize that your value does not come from external validation, but that it is innate within you.

I could say SO much more on this subject… It is very near and dear to my heart. But I can only say so much in one blog.

Remember to think about what you are thinking about and extend kindness and compassion to yourself!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome this and other struggles such as depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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