Time to talk “self-compassion”*, and my total lack of it. It’s no secret that I am monumentally hard on myself, in fact it’s a very well known flaw of mine amongst the many others. I’ve always been quite negative towards myself, and I think that’s something that stemmed from my years of ballet training. It’s an incredibly disciplined art and it comes with (often) unrealistically high expectations, so it really is no wonder that I apply this to other areas of my life too. You know that bit in The Grinch where he’s going through the Whoville phone book and he’s like, “hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, LOOOOAAATHE ENTIRELY”? That’s the pep talk I give myself in the mirror every day. Yeah, that’s where I’m at.
The thing is, I fully admit to and accept my faults. I’m in no denial about them: I’m cynical, sarcastic, moody, stubborn, insensitive, and blunt to name a few. My personality isn’t for everyone, and it can often cause misunderstandings and problems particularly with those of a more sensitive disposition. I don’t behave the way I do out of badness and truthfully I don’t always realise how I come across, so I do always appreciate someone who can say to me, “Hold up, you’re being a dick” so that I can reevaluate. Funnily enough when I first moved in with my friend Dave, he actually asked me if I was autistic down to my often overly forward questions and blank expression. I’m not, FYI, but that does sort of accurately sum up my behaviour at times.
With that said, as I haven’t been particularly mentally well over the past several months, part of my CBT exercises were focused on being “kind” to myself (*gag*) and learning to accept that sometimes it’s perfectly fine not to be fine. Often when I feel like I’m not doing well enough or I haven’t done as much as I’d set out to do, I’ll beat myself up and feel like a big fat failure. Again, though, I think this idea of not doing “well enough” stems from having waaaay too high expectations of and for myself. If any of my friends or family were dealing with the things I was, and were struggling, would I chastise them for it? No, because that would make me a fucking horrible human. I’d tell them they were doing great, it’s okay to have bad days, and there’s always tomorrow. Yet, WHY can’t I do that for myself? Therein lies the issue.
The positive of this is that I recognise that I am hard on myself and don’t treat myself how I would treat others, which I suppose is the first step in confronting the problem. My old therapist gave me some exercises to do to try and teach myself to be a little more compassionate with myself. I’ll be honest that I find them quite difficult, and I didn’t give them enough of a chance at the time so I’m coming back to them now. Originally during one of our sessions, she asked me to write positives about myself instead of focusing on things I don’t like or wish I could change. And do you know the only thing I could come up with? “I’m kind of an okay person.”
I’M KIND OF AN OKAY PERSON?! Is that not just the most half-assed, and actually negative thing ever? I should have just made incoherent noises at her considering that probably would have taken the same level of effort. Really, what I should have written was: I’m a nice person and I like to do nice things for other people, I care about people, I want to make a difference to others, sometimes I struggle but this doesn’t make me a pathetic, disgusting sofa creature from the abyss – it just means I’ll try again tomorrow. See, how hard was that? But, it’s all fine and well saying it, the issue lies in actually believing it.
Like most therapy exercises, it takes time and patience. Essentially you’re retraining your brain to think in a different way from what has become your natural way of thinking. I’m going to start using a little “compassion journal”, which is a technique that was suggested. This idea focuses on taking something that you felt you didn’t do well at, and turning it into a positive. For example: At the moment, I’m really struggling to sleep because I have so many worries about things all racing around in my mind. But instead of saying to myself: “well, you’re just shit aren’t you? Sleep is a basic human function and you can’t even do that right, and that must mean you’re a substandard sorry excuse for a human and you should just dissolve and cease to exist”, I should be saying: “Listen, sleep is hard sometimes. You’ve got a lot on your mind right now, but your body will rest when it needs to. Things will get better one way or another, and it’s not going to be like this forever. You’re doing great.”
I mean, naturally I’m sceptical about that but I guess with patience and practice it might begin to feel more natural. I’m really lucky in that I have lovely friends and family who regularly send me lovely, supportive messages out the blue and that’s a real confidence and mood boost for me even if I don’t really take it on board at the time and I normally reply in my usual self-deprecating way with a “ha”, or turn it into a joke. But it means the world, it really does.
So, I’m now in the US of A and it feels quite nice to be here and it will be my home for the next month-ish. Sometimes I miss living here a lot. I was a little worried about seeing my family as it’s the first time I saw some of them since a) Parker died and b) I went cray cray and they know about it, so I was concerned maybe about things being a smidgen awkward. It hasn’t been though, thankfully, and as most people know just how quirky both sides of my family are, they’ve made me feel totally at ease and we’ve joked about a lot of things which in my opinion has cleared the air. I’m hoping that again, this change of environment can only be a good thing and will help me overall to get myself into a better place.
*I’m writing this on my phone and that just autocorrected to “self-completion” – we’ve all been there, am I right? High five.