The most important thing you can ever do is being kind to yourself. Having compassion for yourself and where you are. Treating yourself with generosity and unconditional love regardless of what you do or don’t do.
Consider the following questions:
- How do you speak to yourself after engaging in self-sabotaging behavior? (i.e., after eating something you said you wouldn’t eat, or having too many drinks, or acting impulsively in a relationship)
- How do you treat yourself after a long, stressful day?
- What do you tell yourself when you’re feeling sadness or frustration?
- What do you do right after you make a “mistake”? (i.e., forgetting a deadline or appointment, sending the wrong email, etc)
Take your time to reflect on these questions, because your answers will show you where your self-compassion level currently stands. If you often beat yourself up, make yourself feel worse, replay your “mistake” in your head over and over, or use other self-sabotaging behaviors to numb your feelings of shame or regret — then you need to seriously step up your self-compassion.
The first thing you should do is adopt these words as your mantra:
I’m doing the best I can – and that’s ok.
Use these words as a salve whenever you feel the pangs of shame, regret, disappointment, or hopelessness rise up within you. Practice a different way of responding to yourself during times of stress, overwhelming emotions, or right after you’ve made a mistake. (Of course, let me remind you that there are no “mistakes,” really, because everything that happens has a purpose and a lesson.)
You must remind yourself that you’re human. You’re not perfect. And that’s ok! It’s not only ok, but essentially the way things are. You can’t change or discard your humanity, at least not while you’re here incarnated in a physical body. Instead of hating or cursing your humanity, use it to grow and evolve. Use it to cultivate empathy for what other humans are going through. Use it to cultivate a sense of humor about the crazy behaviors we all engage in. You’re not alone.
If you need to, make amends. If you’ve forgotten something important or made a “mistake” that hurt someone else, apologize. This doesn’t mean begging for forgiveness or dragging yourself through the mud, though. Apologize in a dignified and sincere way — then move on. Whether the other person accepts your apology is irrelevant.
After making amends, make sure to care for yourself in a gentler, kinder, and more compassionate way than ever before. You’re at your most vulnerable when you feel shame or regret, because these are really painful emotions. You don’t want to pile on the self-hatred and make everything worse. When you feel these emotions, your primary goal must be to soothe yourself. Speaking the words of our mantra — “I’m doing the best I can, and that’s ok” — is a great way to let yourself know everything is ok and to calm your nervous system.
Repeat the mantra as many times as needed, and then take action. Taking action is a great counter-measure and much more effective than just sitting there feeling bad about yourself. Take one compassionate or loving action to show yourself that everything will be ok, that you’re still lovable, and that you won’t abandon yourself. Some of my favorite actions include:
- take an Epsom salt bath
- light a candle and do some praying
- pull a Tarot or Angel card and journal about it
- call a good friend
- share what you’re going through with your partner
- take yourself to the movies
- go out and buy something small but comforting (i.e., a chocolate cupcake, a coloring book, a magazine, a bottle of nail polish — whatever distracts you for a little while and helps you settle down your nerves and intense emotions. Just be careful with this one: don’t turn the shopping or eating into a self-destructive, excessive habit!)
The key is to begin reshaping the way you respond to yourself during these times of emotional difficulty; times when you typically beat yourself up or resort to destructive behaviors to numb yourself. If all else fails, come back to this post and imagine that I’m there with you, reminding you that there’s a purpose and even some form of comedy in what you’re going through (because as humans we are hilarious!). And together we can speak the words: “I’m doing the best I can — and that’s ok.” The best you can is all you can do. Don’t punish yourself for not doing things differently in the past. Just keep moving forward.
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