“We all have our shortcomings and no one is perfect”. Heard that one before? Sure, you have. Most of us deal with it by beating ourselves up for not being able to fix these “shortcomings”. If a friend was being harsh on his/herself, we would instantly ask them to snap out of it. We would remind them how special they are and how lucky you are to have them in your life. But we struggle with showing the same kindness to ourselves.
I was dealing with this issue two weeks ago when I wasn’t able to exercise as much patience with the world as I aspired to. Recall that my resolution for two weeks ago was to overcome anger by developing patience. I overcame my anger toward others, alright! Not by developing patience – but by shifting the anger from others to myself. Needless to say, being angry with myself wasn’t getting me very far – I was low on energy, regretful of every thought that entered my mind, anxious even.
It’s normal! Taking control of our minds isn’t an easy thing to do after a lifetime of getting carried away by your thoughts and emotions. In order to practice compassion toward others, being compassionate toward ourselves and our circumstances is, quite frankly, a pre-requisite.
Let me clarify that this is not a “low-self-esteem” issue. Self-esteem, in my mind, is the emotion of feeling superior (or inferior, as the case may be) about your achievements in comparison to that of others. Showing kindness and compassion toward yourself is about acknowledging your emotions and being okay with it.
Now I don’t mean we indulge in ourself and spoil ourselves by saying, “It’s okay to be angry” and continue being angry. Being kind to yourself means not beating yourself up over a mistake, but instead acknowledging it and making a genuine commitment to change it. It is about abandoning all negative emotions – regret, judging yourself harshly, criticizing yourself, punishing yourself. It is about being sensitive to yourself.
Here’s a general rule of thumb that has helped me practice kindness toward myself – don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. Would you ever say to a friend that he or she is not good enough? Would you expect your friend to move mountains? So why would you be cruel to yourself?
So cut yourself some slack. Take it slow. Take it easy. Show yourself the same kindness as you would to others. Be patient with yourself. Relate to yourself, particularly when times are tough. Question any critical attacks on yourself and acknowledge that some things are just out of your control. And you’ll find yourself having a more balanced state of mind, higher energy levels, and a lot more inner strength.