Would you call yourself a compassionate person? What might that look like? Maybe it is when someone makes a mistake and you tell them, “It’s OK.” When your friend is embarrassed, you calm her down and remind her how special she is. When your child cries over a bad grade, perhaps you tell her how smart she really is and that this grade does not define her. That is compassion.
Most of us would consider ourselves compassionate toward others who feel badly. In the same breath, though, many of us would say we are “not so good” at the self-talk. We admit to self-blame, self-criticism, self-neglect and often worse.
“Why are you so stupid? You are so ugly. Why can’t you ever get anything right?” These are common thoughts coming from our own minds. We would NEVER say these things to anyone else, but we feel free to shout ourselves down.
These kinds of thoughts often come from one who suffers from shame. There are many reasons for feeling shame, usually stemming from some sense of helplessness due to humiliation, abuse, violation, fear or condemnation. A person who feels shame often feels deeply flawed, inferior, worthless and unlovable – not necessarily due to what they have done, but rather due to who they are.
I remember when my shame was first pointed out to me. My facilitator told me to envision my little self in a pretty white dress, so clean and pure. Now imagine tomatoes being thrown at my dress. Dirt rubbed into its seams. Grapes mashed all over the bodice. More dirt, perhaps cow manure since I lived on a farm at the time. Little Dee Dee had a dirty dress, but Dee Dee had done nothing to make it dirty. She was a little girl from a family that struggled due to choices, not her own. Family sins handed down through the generations, insecure financially, abandonment from an alcoholic dad, a mom with pressures too many to count, and little Dee Dee came to the conclusion that she was somehow flawed. Something was wrong with her and she had such a hard time freeing herself from the nagging harassment that told her she would just have to settle for being mediocre … she could never succeed or be good at anything. Even when told that she did something well, she could not hear. (Your brain only listens to you.)
I ask you to consider how you talk to yourself, what you think about yourself. And then I ask you to practice something called self-compassion. Compassion is something you are really good at because you are a kind and understanding person. Now I ask you to turn that really fine part of you and give that great kindness to yourself. Write down all that you would say to someone else if they felt the way you do. Then stand in front of the mirror and read it to yourself. Practice saying these compassionate things over and over until it becomes natural for you to be kind to yourself…as kind as you are to others. Truth has an amazing way of healing the broken-hearted…even when the broken one is you.
Proverbs 10:11a The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…