Starting With Self-Compassion

So this is my story so far: I want to get better at training, pushing myself a little bit further out of the comfort zone. The desire is there but the self-criticism is there too.

The doubts creep up while doing rounds on the punching bag. As confidence wanes, so does the strength of the punches. Do I have the determination that I once had? Do I have the mental stamina? Am I just not that into it this time around? Am I worthy of the sport? Am I worthy at anything?

I want to believe so badly, but I’ve been so used to living without a sense of self-worth I don’t even know where to begin. Before I know it, I’ve stopped punching the bag, lost in thought.

The next day I talk to my therapist. “I’ve realized I don’t have much self-compassion. I need to cultivate it somehow, instead of all this self-deprecation. How do you believe in yourself when all your life you’ve been deep set in this idea that you’re a good-for-nothing?”

At the same time, when I think of self-compassion, I think of sugary-coated, gooey, sweetness that just doesn’t jive with me. Self-compassion is for the weak, I think to myself. They don’t know how to push themselves, they don’t understand what it means to have determination, to not slack off, to not give up. If all I do is have compassion for every misstep I take, then how will anything get done? How will I achieve anything meaningful?

I wasn’t making myself a better person by beating myself up all the time. Instead, I was causing myself to feel inadequate and insecure.” – Kristin Neff, Self Compassion.

Meaning is ultimately what I’m after. If my life is meaningful, if I can contribute something worth meaning, then that means I’m worthy of being here.

I tell my therapist, as if in a moment of insight, “The only reason I keep doing all this stuff that I’m doing is so I can get feedback from other people. I need them to validate me. I can’t do it for myself. The feelings of unworthiness is so strong I can’t cultivate it in myself and need someone to externally fill that hole inside of me.”

My therapist didn’t want to know the why — somehow I’ve learned this kind of thinking along the way. The important thing was to notice when it does happen and find a way to fill it with self-compassion, validation and encouragement.

“Eventually, you’ll be doing things for yourself because you know it to be true to you, not for what people will say.”And that’s the thing. Living for other people is a noble way of life. Living for external validation, however, is an exhausting disservice to the soul. Self-compassion feeds the soul.

Self-compassion provides and island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I enough?”  – Kristin Neff, Self Compassion.

I don’t know how I’ll get there. The journey towards believing in myself is a long one. But I’m doing the little things now. I’m observing. I’m learning. But most important of all, I’m doing the work. The work, the act of doing in and of itself creates a sense of mastery that is imbued with self confidence. Eventually, with awareness, with reflection, with hope, all the miles you put in will translate into a well-lived journey. A journey that you can be proud of.

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