Are you as kind to yourself as you are to your best friend? Well, this presupposes that you are a good best friend, but taking that as a given, are you? Do you treat yourself the way you treat those you love?
Another part of self-love is self-compassion. Self-compassion is incredibly important and a vital part of the constellation of what we’re looking at here; how to be your own best advocate. And if self-compassion is something you really struggle with, take a look at some of the messages from your childhood. Perhaps it was parents, or other people who were around in the household you grew up in. Perhaps it was teachers, or school, or friends or the message there. Somewhere someone taught you not to be kind to yourself. The fastest two ways to teach a child not to be kind to their own self is a) to model the behavior, and b) to shame the child.
Modeling behavior is like emotional second hand smoke. Nobody needs to tell a child how to be just like their parents, or the people who raise them. It’s an instinctive capacity for survival that children are all born with. Little kids might frustrate and annoy, but they also mimic exactly the habits, mannerisms, beliefs, and worldviews of those who raised them. And all those beliefs and worldviews don’t change unless the child chooses to change them.
Shaming is more than just guilt tripping. Guilt is ‘you did something wrong, bad on you.’ Shame is ‘you are the wrong thing, you have no right to exist.’ And you might think, ‘well, thank heavens none of that happened to me!’ …but are you sure? A lot of parents who genuinely love their kids unintentionally send some really toxic messages to their kids, not realizing the profound harm that results. And if a parent actively resented one of their children, that message might not have even been conscious, but it would be present in the subtext of every word and gesture: ‘You’re a burden, I resent that I have to raise you, I wish you didn’t exist.’
So what’s a person to do, if you realize you need more self-compassion than you have?
Step one: rout out any shame. Every time you encounter it, work to release it and replace it with truth: You are good, and you have every right to be here, to live, love, and be joyful. This is a step that you may need to come back to over and over again, and it may seem like the unending task for a while, because once you notice that there is a little bit of shame, well, it’s like finding a seam of gold in a mountain – you need to work that seam until it all runs out.
Step two: start examining the worldview and belief structure you received from your parents. You probably started this around the age of four and picked up again when you were a teenager, but you may not have done any rebellion since then. Now’s a great time. What did you parents teach you about self-compassion? What kind of self-compassion did they have and demonstrate in different situations? Think about as much as you can, and begin deciding whether or not you want to follow in their footsteps.
Step three: start examining your own behavior and start treating yourself like you would your very best friend. Be honest. Be loving. Be supportive. Be patient. Seek help. Seek support. Seek guidance. Seek reassurance. Seek comfort.