Fix You: A Guide to Self-Compassion

I had it all wrong.  

I thought if I could do self-help perfectly, I’d be well on my way to confidence and a sense of personal freedom.  If I could will myself into the knowledge and experience of self-love and acceptance, I’d have arrived.  There might even be a red carpet and some Valentino couture involved.  

After all, I used perfectionism to my advantage for years, why stop now?  Why not transfer that zipped up effort to the pursuit of self-acceptance and love. With just enough muscle, I knew I could fix her. 

Spoiler alert:  no matter how many affirmations or bubble baths or self-help books were had, the “am I enough?” ballot’s still out.

Oh, I went gangster with it, too—you know, the “fixing homework.”

I’d recall all my limiting beliefs about myself, write them down, cross them out, and slap ruby red lipstick on them—with feeling. 

“I’m unloveable.” 

Er…I mean:

“I’m the greatest thing since (gluten-free) sliced bread and have every reason to deserve love now.”

Sounds more like an SNL sketch to me.  It also sounds reactionary and surface-level, not genuine or believable. 

Good news!  

You’re not meant to be fixed; you’re meant to be understood.

We can’t will ourselves into a loving relationship with ourselves, or anyone else for that matter.  Humans aren’t math equations.  We’re messy, complex, and perfectly imperfect.  

The self-esteem quick fix is much like pumping a poor chicken chock full of toxic hormones to go further at your local Kroger.  It may seem full of juicy possibility in the moment, yet it probably has long-term health concerns.

Why doesn’t self-esteem work? 

Because it’s based on the way we view ourselves to the degree with which we like ourselves.  Sounds benign, right?  Sure, until circumstances change.  What happens when we fail to get that promotion, call back, book deal—or can’t get the weight off? 

The temporary illusion of self-esteem takes a nosedive into a muddy puddle of shame.

Typically, if we depend on circumstances to prop up our self-worth, there's a hard and unexpected fall coming just around the corner.  

There’s more.  

Self-esteem can be divisive in an effort to “one-up” those around us.  Let’s revisit our earlier limiting belief turnaround. If I replace it with a pep talk that tells me “I’m the greatest thing around,” I’m puffing up my ego (which operates from a place of fear instead of belonging) and pitting myself against the world in an effort to prove myself, not lovingly being with myself.

So, what’s the solution?  If I can’t perfect self-esteem, what am I supposed to do?

Four years ago, I picked up a book called Self-Compassion: the proven power of being kind to yourself, by Kristin Neff.  It has changed the way I relate to myself and others on every level.  It’s also called me into a more caring dialog with myself as opposed to the harsh, striving one that’s been so violent and intrusive for decades.

Rules without relationship breed rebellion. 
If I’m constantly inflicting rules on myself instead of trying to relate to myself, I’m on the fast track to self-sabotage.  

• Self-compassion is relational, not circumstantial. It’s based on the awareness that the human condition is frail at best yet capable of resilience.  

• Self-compassion is cultivated like any relationship—over time.  It fills in all the holes self-esteem leaves gaping. When we fail to live up to our expectation, self-esteem prompts two extremes: negative self-talk or puffed up ego (even…gasp…narcissism).

This is not the case with self-compassion.  It comes flooding in when our insecurities,            flaws, and shortcomings stare us back in the mirror.  

• Most importantly, self-compassion binds us together in the reality of our human experience.  It doesn’t divide, puff up, or need to isolate.  We see ourselves through the lens of “imperfect—yet still enough.”

When that brutal inner critic pipes up, self-compassion says, “Hold on. I see you.  I          understand your pain. And I am here with you.” 

Her voice is firm and tender.  

She doesn’t wait on the clouds to pass or the proverbial sun to shine. She speaks her truth in the broken moments. 

You’ve known her cadence a long, long  time. Then you met fear.  It drowned out the love.

You know what?  

Your birthright is love, not fear. Just as you learned fear’s luring language, you can also unlearn it. 

Birds don’t soar because of effort or willpower.  They do so by surrender—and risk.  

It’s time to work with—not against—the choppy current of life’s wind.  

Alone?  Not in a million.  You’ve got a bold little guide waiting inside to illuminate the path.  She was born ready.

Love & Gratitude,