self-compassion and punishment.

Been having trouble writing lately. I guess trouble isn’t fair to say. I haven’t even been trying. I do go so far as to write in my planner to “Start a writing practice…at least 30 min/day!!”

Pretty cute, I know.

Too bad I don’t do a damn thing with it.

And yet, here I am today. I’m choosing to be compassionate with myself, rather than hateful and critical. It’s hard. It’s much easier for me to keep talking shit to myself the way I have been for the last few months…

You must not really want to pursue writing.”

You don’t really like writing if you’re not doing it.

You’re not that good anyway. The world will go on without your narrative, Beth.

It’s not going to get you anywhere.”  

“Just abandon ship. You’re too lazy and undisciplined to keep this up.”

Rather than saying what I would say to any friend of mine:

“Hello there…What are ya doing there, champ? It seems like maybe being so hard on yourself is causing you to further distance yourself from something that nurtures you. Seems a bit like punishment, which we both know isn’t the most effective option.”

 Maybe that statement is surprising to you…that punishment isn’t the most effective option. I think we all, to a certain extent, default to a critical and judgmental mindset when we disappoint ourselves (and others). We are trained from a young age to buy into this concept that in order to change “bad” behavior, we need to feel bad first.

Think about when you were a kid or how things are with the kids in your life. If a child misbehaves in some way, let’s say hits another child. I’ve witnessed responses to this situation including hitting the child who hit (face palm…I hope the cycle here is evident) to yelling at that child. I imagine many of you have taken a step back to look at this type of situation before. Hitting a child after they have hit someone else just models the behavior we told them not to do, as well as confuses their attachment to us. “Why would someone who loves me intentionally inflict physical and emotional harm on me?” Keeping in mind that the attachment you have with your parents can influence the attachments you have (and sometimes seek unconsciously) with future partners, the implications of abuse and neglect are paramount. Yelling at them may just confound the issue, as well.

In Adlerian theory, a “misbehaving child is a discouraged child.” With this interpretation in mind (misbehavior=demonstration of feeling discouraged), it’s unlikely many of us would respond to someone who is discouraged by hitting them or yelling at them about how bad of a person they are. It actually seems like insane behavior if you put it like that, but that is what we are doing to children when we are responding to them that way.

And what we are doing to ourselves as adults.

Think about all the things you chastise yourself for…When you snap on a friend or coworker. When you forget to pay a bill or finish your chore list for the week. When you miss your weekly workouts for a bit. When you forget someone’s birthday. When you eat that pint of ice cream in one sitting. (When you neglect writing for 2 months).

I imagine, often times, we default to thinking punishment will pull us out of these patterns.  We believe we need a self-critical and punishing mindset to motivate ourselves, but I have to ask how effective that feels long term? Sure, we can definitely hate ourselves into short-term change, but I wonder how many things in our lives we can say that we successfully punished the “bad” behavior out ourselves for an extended period of time. And if we feel we did, at what cost?

So what is the alternative? We probably don’t want to keep doing behaviors that are harmful or unsatisfying to us. How do we stop?

First, we have to fully, truly, 100% accept the fact that we are human, which means we will never do anything perfectly all of the time. Hell…even part of the time. So we won’t ever stop doing things that hurt us entirely. This does not mean that we are shitty or lazy people. It means that we are doing a great job at being a human beings.

So, accept our humanness and all it’s complexities. Check.

Next step, lather ourselves in compassion. Drown ourselves in compassion. If we are doing things that are hurting us…no matter how big or small…we are discouraged in some way. We are hurting in some way. We need healing, nurturance, understanding, and encouragement. We need lots of yummy thoughts and sensations raining down on us.

You’re doing enough. You are enough.”

 How are you feeling? Anything been on your mind or bugging you lately that you’ve been trying not to feel? It’s time we let those feelings breathe.”

Just because you’re feeling like you’re a mess, doesn’t mean you’re also not crushing it and beautiful. Feeling like a mess and being amazing are not mutually exclusive.”

I use the words “encourage” and “encouragement” a lot, but I rarely consider what the crux of those words is: to inspire courage.

What inspires courage in you?

My guess is that while there are times people doubting you can trigger motivation, overall feeling understood and loved are more sustaining agents for change. This is not about lying to ourselves.  It’s about being entirely present with ourselves and kindly saying “I see you and I accept you fully.” 

Cliff notes: We need to do our very damndest to only say things to ourselves that we would say to our best friend. Yes, there are automatic thoughts that arise which we don’t have control of that are nasty at times, but we do have control of how we respond to those thoughts. Just because the item is on the shelf in front of us, doesn’t mean we have to buy it.

Here are a few other resources about compassion:

Tedx Talk: The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion

Positive Discipline

Punishment V Compassion

With gratitude and all that compassion, Your Beth

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