It’s December 2020. I’m busy planning my 2021 goals. In prior years, I’ve always had at least one goal around anxiety or mental health, but this year I am determined to zero in on self compassion. I made it my number one goal! It was a bit ambiguous: “Prioritize self-compassion and self-confidence,” but it needed to be. If not, I knew I would optimize the hell out of it and end up being less self compassionate. I tend to go all in on goals. I need to complete them. When I don’t, I become incredibly hard on myself. I don’t need an accountability partner, my accountability partner is myself, and this particular accountability partner is ruthless. This is all to say, having a goal to be more self compassionate is really hard, especially for someone like me. It’s quite meta, too. The idea of turning myself into a more self compassionate self is inherently not all that self compassionate. But the first step, I decided back in 2021, was to define what self compassion even is.
So what is it? I’ve read so much on the topic, listened to a ton of podcast episodes, and tried many “loving kindness” guided meditations. Fast forward to today, and I’m still not sure if I have a good definition. I hear a lot of “it’s ok to be selfish” or “it’s ok to say no.” My interpretation is a bit different. It’s less about justification around being selfish, and more about what I refer to as my enemies of self compassion – imposter syndrome, attachment, comparison, and guilt. More than a year later, I’m still trying to come up with a definition I’m happy with, but these enemies are a good first step.
I have an incredibly hard time letting go. You could say I’m a perfectionist, but it’s more than that. My mind refuses to let go. I could be reading a block of code I don’t understand or reflecting on a upsetting comment someone made. I need to fully understand everything about what that code is doing. If I don’t, I feel I’m somehow inadequate or unintelligent. Or, I need to immediately address that comment. If I let it go, I dwell on it until there’s some sort of closure and mutual understanding.
Here’s a quote out of Jay Shetty’s book “Think Like A Monk” which really resonated with me in regards to attachment:
When we track our fears back to their source, most of us find that they’re closely related to attachment—our need to own and control things. We hold on to ideas we have about ourselves, to the material possessions and standard of living that we think define us, to the relationships we want to be one thing even if they are clearly another. That is the monkey mind thinking. A monk mind practices detachment. We realize that everything—from our houses to our families—is borrowed.
Maybe it seems like a stretch to use the words fear, control, and attachment when talking about the need to understand a block of code, but I believe it’s more closely related than you might think. Zooming in on a single day or a few hours in the afternoon, it’s the inability to let go of something simple like understanding that block of code, or thinking about a one-off conversation. Those kind of thoughts manifest and create an attachment to what possibly, at least in nmy head, defines me. Another quote from his book related to the same topic is a piece of advice I really need to put some focus around. It seems so freeing!
Detachment is liberating. When we aren’t defined by our accomplishments, it takes the pressure off. We don’t have to be the best.
I’m not sure if this should get its own enemy or if it fits somehow into attachment. I’m keeping it on its own because it’s such a big part of my life. I’m honestly not sure when it started, I try to pin that down quite often. It likely started a lot earlier than whatever trigger point I end up settling on, rooted deep within me. And that’s the key, it’s never going to go away. I’m never going to feel like I know everything, which is actually a good thing! But it’s the anxiety and stress I put on myself I’d like to let go of. The technique of reframing is incredibly helpful with this enemy. Another quote from Jay’s book:
Reframe your self-criticism in terms of knowledge. When you hear yourself say, “I’m bored, I’m slow, I can’t do this,” respond to yourself: “You are working on it. You are improving.” This is a reminder to yourself that you are making progress.
I am so guilty of comparison. I catch myself doing it all the time. I’d like to start this one with a quote.
Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
This is so, so true (and by the way, not from Jay Shetty, but actually from Theodore Rosevelt). If I’m being completely honest, I use comparison both to feel better about myself and to beat myself up. Neither are good. I’ll listen to someone speak and decide they’re so much better than I am. To make myself feel better, I’ll find someone who I consider I’m on par with at that particular skill, mainly just to justify I’m not the worst. Why does my mind do this? I don’t yet have a great method of fighting this enemy, but I at least recognize it more often when it’s occurring.
I suppose guilt is my version of not being ok with “it’s ok to be selfish.” I feel guilt often. For me, guilt comes in various forms. If I take a 30 minute nap, I may label myself as lazy. If I sit down to journal in the middle of my day, I feel like I’m taking advantage of others because I’m not working like “I should be” or doing chores around the house “like I should be” or spending as much time with my daughter “as I should be.” Reframing is also important here, too. But as much as I try, the guilt still takes a toll and ends up triggering a ton of anxiety.
Hello 2022! 👋
So here I am in 2022, a year after making an initial goal of being more self compassionate. Who knows, maybe in another year I’ll look back at this and have a different set of enemies. But this year I’m going to focus on making all of them into my friend, instead of setting goals to defeat them. Setting actionable goals can be good in certain circumstances (like maybe delivering on professional commitments), but I’ve found in my personal life it’s more about checking in through reflection and some light planning to keep the day to day focus on my core values. I have a routine where every morning I start with a meditation, reflect with some journaling, and lightly plan the rest of my day. In the evening, a similar routine: reflect on the day and lightly plan some main themes for the next day. I also feel it’s important to have some blocks of time to just think – maybe sitting on a park bench or laying in bed. And finally, some time put aside to talk to someone – a therapist, a coach, or a friend.
So that’s the game plan for 2022 – turn these self compassion enemies into friends. In actuality, these enemies all serve as some pretty damn good accountability partners, just so long as it’s not at the expense of my mental health.comments powered by Disqus