Self-Compassion

“I don’t think anyone could ever criticize me more severely than the way I viciously criticize myself.”

We are our hardest critic. Sometimes I don’t think I even know what self-compassion is. I don’t know how to be nice to myself. I can be extremely kind to strangers, but I am consistently putting myself down because I don’t feel like I’m good enough. I recently wrote this in a ‘getting it off my chest’ piece:

“I’m feeling frustrated as well. I feel like life isn’t moving fast enough for me, that it’s just dragging by. I feel like I’m going nowhere in life and doing that fast. I don’t feel like a success and I often feel like I’ll never be one and that’s all I want. I feel like I have something I have to prove to the world, and right now I’m failing at it. I want to be proud of myself, instead I find that I want to crawl into a corner and hide. How can I be proud of myself and my accomplishments, when I have depression? I think this is compounded by the fact that when I am proud of my little accomplishments, I get made fun of. I almost wrote ‘silly little accomplishments’, which tells you exactly where my frame of mind is….”

I’m being hard on myself. People tell me that I’m exactly where I need to be, but I feel like I should be somewhere else. I feel like I should be further along with my life. (And there I go using ‘should’ in regards to my life. I swear it’s the worst word in the English language.)

I need to learn to be compassionate towards myself; to give myself a little more credit. I am successful in many ways. Living alone and being independent in my early 20s, is a great accomplishment. Knowing what I want to do with my life and having the courage to work toward, albeit however slowly that may be, is also a success. I need to be nicer to myself, because I know that I am not a bad person.

So why is it I can be nice to others but not myself? Why am I so viciously cruel to myself, when I know I’m not a bad person? In some ways, it makes me better because by criticizing myself, I’m working towards being a better person. But for the most part, I need to be nicer towards myself like I am towards strangers. I’m just as good as anybody else in this world, I just have to believe it.

Featured image

Self-Compassion Exercises

Automatic Thoughts

We have thousands of thoughts every day. Many of these thoughts are automatic, unintentional, and unthinking. The problems arise when we attach emotions to them. Our thoughts are influenced by our upbringing, our culture, family values and previous experiences. We decide almost automatically whether an event, person, or thought is good or bad, dangerous or safe. Oftentimes our minds attach the meaning without our realizing it as it tries to help us interpret events, sights, smells, sounds and feelings. Our minds start with an event and then attach meaning to it which leads to the emotions we feel.

Here are some truths about automatic thoughts.

The first thing to remember that these thoughts are automatic. They just happen and are often affected by our upbringing and development. Oftentimes we develop unhelpful thinking habits which lead to Cognitive Distortions.

Our thoughts are believable although they might not necessarily be helpful, true or accurate. Automatic thoughts are often based on our emotions rather than the facts and this can drive our opinion based on whether something is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Thoughts can be a memory, words, a physical sensation, an image, a sound or based on intuition. Our thoughts can also be based on a sense of just ‘knowing’ or gut instinct.

Our thoughts are habitual and persistent. This is how cognitive distortions can be formed. Thoughts repeat over and over leading to a believability that can set off a new chain of related thoughts that can make us feel worse. Our thoughts often follow themes for short periods or even for years and decades. This is known as rumination and can lead long term depression.

The final truth about automatic thoughts is that they are ours. They are very specific to ourselves because of our experiences, values, knowledge and culture. We may often have thoughts that don’t fit with our values and beliefs, which can cause us distress because we attach meaning to those thoughts about why we had them.

Automatic thoughts are just that, automatic. They are often fleeting and illogical, but it is when we attach meaning and emotion to the thoughts that we run into trouble. Oftentimes we have to relearn a more balanced way of thinking to deal with the cognitive distortions that we have developed throughout the years.

  1. Automatic Thoughts
  2. Unhelpful Thinking Habits
  3. Finding Alternative Thoughts

Self-Esteem

It’s strange for me to hear someone say something complimentary about me. I can deal with the smaller compliments like, “you have great eyes” or “you have a pretty smile” but the compliment “you are gorgeous”, just throws me for a loop and it’s something I have to work on. When I think of myself in good terms, I think about what I can do rather than how I look. But this also has to do with my self-esteem.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have low self-esteem. Years of negative life experiences and failed expectations have led me to this point. I ‘know’ that I’m a good person but I ‘know’ is extremely different from I ‘believe’.

Low self-esteem occurs when we think negatively about ourselves and situations. This comes about because we feel the need to place value on everything and everyone. However, we set the value of our self-worth extremely low. Negative self thoughts equal negative or low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is also circular; actual or perceived criticism or negative judgments lead to repeated self-critical thoughts or cognitive distortions which leads to low self-esteem. This circle will continue until there is a change.

To exit the cycle of low self-esteem, you have to begin thinking and doing things differently. Changes have to be made. For thinking differently, examples include ‘fact versus opinion’ or ‘being more realistic’. For doing things differently, examples include ‘acknowledging your strengths, setting limits when helping others and acting who you want to be’. “Visualize yourself competently and confidently doing and enjoying the things you would like to enjoy doing and successfully doing what you need to do”.

Using positive statements or self affirmations can also help you develop a new attitude toward yourself. You must use the affirmation immediately after having the negative thought, even if you don’t believe the affirmation. After continued use of this new habit, the negative thought will be replaced by the affirmation. Positive affirmations are most often “I am…” statements.

In addition, you should use a coping thought/positive statement for each difficult or distressing situation. Make sure to write them out ahead of time so that you have them handy for when the situations occur. Examples of these include: ‘My mind is not always my friend’ and ‘Thoughts are just thoughts – they’re not necessarily true or factual’. Please view the worksheet attached at the end of this post for more examples.

Having a higher self-esteem will give you a higher self worth so you don’t have to depend on others for these emotions or feelings. A higher self-esteem will allow to feel motivation, encouragement and empowerment to reach your goals and dreams.

Featured image

  1. Positive Affirmations
  2. Self-Esteem
  3. Low Self-Esteem
  4. Positive Statements Worksheet

Friends

When I was little, I didn’t have very many friends. I usually had the one requisite best friend and that is who I would hang out with. For some reason though, eventually this best friend would move and I would spend time in limbo before finding a new friend. This happened many times from 1st grade all the way through high school.

I was always on the fringe of any groups. Now that I’m older, I feel like I spent my childhood chasing after the other kids on the playground. I would invite girls to my birthday parties and they would attend but I wasn’t always include in outside events. As we got older, it became even more apparent to me that I didn’t belong.

My middle school years, 5th and 6th grade, I felt like even more of an outsider. In 5th grade, I became the teacher’s pet just so I could go back to my classroom instead of going out to recess. The few times I remember going to recess, I recall sitting in front of an old tree stump that was disintegrating and picking at it, watching all of the other kids. I tried joining in a couple of times but I honestly felt like I wasn’t wanted.

By high school the differences were even more pronounced. I wasn’t into fashion and I wasn’t ‘boy-crazy’. I was a musical nerd who enjoyed her classes and joined every extracurricular choral group possible. After I turned 16, I got a job but I still didn’t feel like I fit in. Looking back at pictures of myself from high school, I feel like I’m on the edges; on the outside looking in.

I’ve felt this way my entire life. I’ve often been told it’s because I’m more mature than others my age or that I ‘had an old soul’. But while that is great advice, as a kid, I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to be part of the group; to feel wanted and involved.

Today, I don’t have many friends, but I cherish the ones I do. They are important to me because I know how much it sucks to not be  invited or to be forgotten or ignored. I want my friends to know that I appreciate that they are willing to be there for me, especially on days when my depression attempts to get the best of me. My friends are my support and for that, I thank them.

Change: A Personal Perspective

If change was easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.

This is the tagline for my future non-profit, ADAPT. I feel that change and adapt are synonymous because to make a change, you have to adapt. Whether it’s adapting your behaviors, your emotions, or your way of thinking, adapting is a part of change.

Change isn’t easy. I’ve found that it’s difficult to change behaviors and ways of thinking that have taken years to develop. I have to be mindful. I have to actively maintain new behaviors and put effort into the changes I need or want to make. Sometimes, I feel like this effort could be better spent. Why put effort into something when you’re not sure of the outcome? It might not come to anything. It could be a waste of time and energy. But if I’m going to ‘what if’ the negatives, I would benefit more from also ‘what ifing’ the positives. I consider this to be one of the changes I’m making to my life. So, what if the change does work? What if this change makes the difference in my life?

My depression causes me to think negatively and because of this, I have grown accustomed to thinking of worst case scenarios. So I’m trying to change and at least make the effort to think more positively, or at least not as negatively. Change has to be taken in steps. You can’t automatically convince yourself to think differently.

I am struggling with change. My depression is an old friend and I know exactly what to expect from it, but if I don’t change, I will never be happy. And I want to be happy; everyone deserves to be happy, don’t they? In this situation, change is the only way to achieve happiness. So I will change. I will take those steps forwards and backwards, and I will start all over again if I have to. Change isn’t easy, but it can be worth it to change bad habits and become a better person.

Discovering Yourself

My Story: After Outpatient Treatment Part 1

Week 1; Day 1:
I’m still struggling to find a therapist. i feel better and don’t necessarily want to find someone new. It’s hard finding someone. I’ve gotten lonely and I clicked with my last three therapists but now that I’m feeling better, I don’t necessarily want to find a new one.
And I know that one of the reasons I’m feeling better is because of the new guy in my life. For some reason, he think’s I’m absolutely amazing and gorgeous. I don’t completely agree with him. I can be amazing but I definitely don’t think that I’m gorgeous. Of course, hearing all of these things is very good for my ego and self-esteem but I need to feel these things for myself. I can’t rely on someone else for how I feel about myself.

Day 2:
I had an interesting dream that left me waking up feeling hurt. I’ve posted about this dream and the emotions I experienced because of it here.
I need to remember that I can have preferences but not expectations.

Day 3:
I’m reading this ‘self-help’ book, which is a little ironic because I’ve never really liked self-help books. But I found these two quotes which I really related to.
“I feel like I must earn my self-esteem. I think I must be very ‘special’ or intelligent or successful to be loved and accepted by others” (p. 176, Burns)
“I am terrified by failure. If I do not achieve an important goal, i feel like a failure as a human being” (p. 176, Burns)

Day 5:
That awesome guy asked me out ‘officially’ last night. & I’m here at his concert tonight. On the drive up here, I realized that I’m scared. I’m what ifing the whole thing and I’m worried that I’m going to come out of this worse for the wear. Honestly, I feel like crying. I realize that I just have to live in the moment and let things happen the way they will.

Day 6:
I’m looking forward to the new bf coming out and staying the night. It’s exciting. I don’t know what he sees in me, but I’m glad he sees it. He makes me feel better about myself which is potentially a problem. I need to bring this up with my therapist, when I find a new one.

Day 7:
I’m struggling today. It was awesome spending time with the bf, it was also sad to see him go. I know I’ll get to see him again, but now I’m feeling lonely and alone and parts of me are thinking ‘what if I never hear from him again? Why would he ever want me?’ I know this is the IBSC talking and I really wish they would shut up but their illogic is sounding mighty logical to me right now. I hate my mind!!!

To My Boyfriend

To My Boyfriend:

I’m sorry. I know that it is difficult for you to understand my depression and what it can do to me. And I love that you want to understand and that you are making an effort to see past my depression to me. I don’t know what you see in me that you insist is so amazing and great and I might never see it but I’m glad that you do.

I love that you’re uplifting even when I’m at my worst. You refuse to let me begin my destructive circular thinking and you want me to succeed. You believe in me when I can’t.

You’re a good man. You have so much going for you and I often think that you can do so much better than a mess like me, but you insist that I’m the one who is out of your league.

I can be myself around you and not worry that you’re going to walk away. I miss you when we’re not together and I look forward to every time I get to see you. I’m looking forward to see what life has in-store for us. I’m hopeful, which is saying something for me.

I’m grateful that you’re there for me when I’m down and when I’m not. You’re a wonderful person, and I hope that we can grow together. Hopefully, one day I’ll be better and my good days will outnumber the bad. Until then, all I ask is patience.

Please understand that I am fighting. I want to get better and sometimes I can’t see that light at the end of the tunnel, but you say that it’s there and I’m willing to believe you. Hopefully we can reach that light together.

Thank you for everything you’ve done so far and everything that I’m sure you’re going to do. I appreciate it more than I can say. Thank you.