Daraius’ Diary: “Why Can’t I Be Kind to Myself?”

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Daraius:  We’ve got a great team at Million Mile Secrets helping with posts.  But I miss writing as much as I did in the old days!  So here I am writing about stuff that I really care about.  And which isn’t all miles-and-points related.

Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” – Pema Chodron

I can be pretty mean and vicious.  And petty.  Not to mention critical and demanding.  I don’t do this to others, but to myself.

So a few weeks ago, I attended a Self-Compassion intensive workshop by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer in Sedona, Arizona.

I find it hard to be kind to myself, even though folks tell me that I am kind to them.  In fact, up to a few years ago, I didn’t even realize that I could be kind to myself!  I couldn’t understand what “self-compassion” could possibly be referring to!

Daraius Diary Why Cant I Be Kind To Myself

Staring Outward at Beautiful Nature Relaxes My Mind, Allowing Me to Look Inward With Greater Clarity

It turns out that many folks find it easier to be kind to others than to themselves.

What Is Self-Compassion?

Over the past few years, I started hearing more about self-compassion.  And the change that being kind to myself could bring about.  After I started meditating, I was slowly able to observe my thoughts as opposed to act on every thought.  And I realized that my “internal voice” was extremely harsh and mean.

By “internal voice” I’m referring to the voice in my head which sounds like me and has a comment or opinion on everything! 🙂

So what does self-compassion or being kind to myself really mean?

According to Kristin Neff, it means treating yourself, when you’re going through a tough time, not achieving your goals, or dislike something about yourself, just as you’d be kind and supportive to a good friend.

Benefits of Self-Compassion

Folks who are compassionate and kind to themselves tend to have healthier relationships, more academic success, fewer issues with addiction, and healthier behavior toward food and sex.

Life isn’t perfect and expecting it to be always be perfect is a recipe for suffering.  I find that Self-Compassion is a way to accept life’s imperfections.

My Experience With Self-Compassion

Link:   Self-Compassion Meditations (Kristin Neff)

Link:   Self-Compassion Meditations (Chris Germer)

Link:   The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions)

Link:  Self-Compassion (The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself)

One of the most revealing practices for me was to write out how I’d talk to myself.  And then compare it to how I’d talk to a friend.

I’d say a lot of mean and angry things to myself, but I would NEVER talk to a friend that way.  Why did I think it was okay to talk to myself in that way?

But I’ll Lose My Edge!

At first, it felt fake and phony when I tried being kind to myself!  I was scared that self-compassion equated to being weak and that I’d lose my drive and ambition.  It turns out that many folks have similar concerns, even though the research overwhelmingly shows the opposite.

Over the course of the 5 days, I was able to see and hold a lot of my “imperfections.”  The shame and guilt at yelling…the feelings of unworthiness around relationships.  Am I really loveable?

It all felt awful!!  No wonder I didn’t want to feel it!

And at one point, I took heed of the suggestion to give myself what I needed during the workshop, and I went for a (manic!) run to feel more grounded.

Daraius Diary Why Cant I Be Kind To Myself

Running Helped Ground & Calm Me

On other days, nothing I “did” would make those feelings go away.

And that’s when I realized – experientially in my body as opposed to a mere intellectual understanding – that the point of self-compassion is NOT to feel better about myself.  But to just be kind to myself because I’m feeling those unpleasant emotions.

Bottom Line

I’ve certainly fallen for the notion that I have to be “perfect” – strong, emotionless, and always on.  But the result was numbing myself to all other emotions by focussing only on the emotions I wanted to express.

It was much more helpful for me to realize that the pleasant emotions AND the unpleasant emotions are part of the deal we call life!

And to learn the skills to hold these unpleasant emotions in kind, present, and loving awareness.  Realizing that we are ALL imperfect and that I am much more connected to others in my imperfection than in our (imagined) perfection.

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17 responses to “Daraius’ Diary: “Why Can’t I Be Kind to Myself?”

  1. Tammy Horvath

    I had a hard time loving myself until I learned how. It was only a few years ago that I FINALLY learned this. Being a perfectionist, I was constantly punishing myself and didn’t even know it. Since then, my life has changed completely. In time, you will be a lot happier for what you now know.

    • Million Mile Secrets

      Thanks for sharing your personal experience and how it changed your life completely. I agree that there is a kinder way to be a “perfectionist.”

  2. Your “Diary” posts in general, and this one in particular, resonate with me and today’s made my visit to MMS more eye-opening than usual. Perfectionism, it’s increasingly clear to me, is a kind of addiction that easily afflicts a lot of people, but especially early high-achievers or those for whom high achievement comes easily, even effortlessly at first. I know it’s a harsh experience for me when I encounter something I’m *not* naturally good at. You really hit the nail on the head when you said “strong, emotionless, and always on”. While I *do* take down time (a chance to be “off”), I’d have to confess I’ve forgotten how to turn my emotions back on in life. So, yes, this definitely has given me something to take to heart. Good news is, as the song lyric says: “Life’s a journey, not a destination” and this one’s still a work in progress….

    • Million Mile Secrets

      I appreciate you taking the time to share your detailed thoughts! I can relate that perfectionism is very addictive, and it is easy to keep chasing because of the reinforcement I get. In my case, turning off emotions, made it harder to experience the technicolor of life.

  3. After decades of running meditation, I found compassion for my knees, ankles and hips and turned to swimming meditation. And now I have even finally stopped timing my laps.

  4. Thanks, Daraius, for sharing. I love your vulnerability about your struggles which bring me a sense of connection. I also enjoy your explanation of what self-compassion means: to be kind to yourself as you’re having painful thoughts and feelings.

    For me self-compassion has helped me to accept my anxiety, my anger, my yelling. It certainly helped me holding love and care toward feelings of worthlessness. Wrapping arms around myself and walking mindfully are my best tools to call upon self-compassion.

    Tonglen might be even more powerful: to breathe in all the pain and heaviness of my experience, then to breathe out love, light, and relief to that experience. Then, after a couple of breaths, to breath in the pain and heaviness of everyone else who has the same experience, and to breath out love, light, and relief to them.

    This seeing our shared humanity is one of the three elements of self-compassion, according to Kristin Neff (the other two our befriending yourself and awareness of our suffering), and very powerful to me.

    • Million Mile Secrets

      Elly, thanks for sharing how this post landed for you, and for sharing so deeply what self-compassion has done for you. I like hearing about Tonglen and especially how it connects me with shared humanity, which makes it easier to be more accepting of myself.

  5. Cindy and Rick

    As a Bible-reading Christian, just knowing that God loves me and wants me to the be the best possible person I can be, I strive to be exactly that. That is where happiness comes from–the spirit within yourself. We are all of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are just the vehicle we possess for a while on earth. I think reading the Bible and learning about God’s love is a good first step in any person’s recovery from self-doubt and even self-loathing. Forgiveness is ours because Jesus died for it, as long as we accept Him.

    Also, there are wonderful books about near-death experiences by people who were non-believers who were changed completely, even profoundly, after the experience. Atheists become believers. There are even some some great DVD’s like Evidence of Heaven, based on Lee Strobel’s book of the same name. The Case for Christ is playing at the theaters currently. I know this post is probably not what you were expecting to see, I probably wouldn’t either, if I were in your shoes. But God’s Bible is full of wisdom, love and compassion, and if you get to know God, you will realize your own potential for loving yourself because you will realize that this world is not an accident, and you weren’t either. “Seek and ye shall find, knock and the door will be opened.” There is great wisdom in those words.

    • Million Mile Secrets

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. I completely agree that our happiness comes from the spirit within ourselves and are bodies are just external vehicles to be used for a limited time.

  6. I knew someone would come in trying to push their religious beliefs on everyone else…

    Way to go Cindy & Rick.

    NOT.

  7. Cindy and Rick, if you “think reading the Bible is a good first step”, you must be skipping over parts of it – like when god commands a father to murder his son.

    • David,
      You are referring to an old covenant example. And it was only a test—not for God to know but for Abraham to find out his devotion.
      Since the cross (New covenant) we are all under grace, but we have to accept that love and grace! God doesn’t force anything on anybody—that’s religion (what Doug referred to).
      As others have mentioned: We are all eternal spirits which will live on forever, each of us has a soul (mind, will, emotions) and we all live in a
      body (temporarily). The key is that we get to choose where we spend eternity. The price has been paid, all we have to do is accept eternal life.

  8. dotti cahill

    You are over reading yourself…too many touchy feely classes and ??therapy.. lighten up please you are toooo serious about all of this. try to enjoy life more…

  9. For those struggling with perfectionism and/or self-loathing, I’m sure you are on the right track with this beautiful sharing of struggle and unfolding awareness and presence!

    I would also recommend reading about the Enneagram, and specifically Type 1, The Perfectionist. You may find, as I have, that it is helpful, even enlightening.
    https://www.enneagramworldwide.com/types/the-perfectionist/

    • Million Mile Secrets

      Thanks so much for sharing the link to the Type 1. I could relate with quite a bit of it. I especially liked reading “To change what can be changed, to accept what cannot be changed, and to develop the wisdom to know the difference”

  10. Back to the reviews, please.