Tonight I had a long conversation with a friend whom I don't get to talk to on the phone nearly often enough. She was pondering the dynamics of relationships on several levels and it lead me to realize the amount of neglect people tend to have for their relationships with themselves. We spend hours pondering the "whys" and "hows" of our interactions with others, but how many times do we really do the same with ourselves? For many of us, the answer is "never" or "not often." Several times throughout the conversation the topic of self-compassion and care came up and though we joked about how self care doesn't come easy to us, the sad truth is it doesn't come easy to many.
After this eye-opening phone conversation, I took a few moments to really reflect on what we had talked about. I came to the disheartening conclusion that even having compassion towards myself for being such a mean inner critic is hard. I beat myself up and then beat myself up for beating myself up. It's an endless circle of self-violence that is truly pointless. The hard truth of the matter is that my lack of self compassion is holding me back from becoming the woman I want to be.
A great example of this would be the events that happened after totaling my car on Sunday. I was heading out on my break to do a couple of errands and suddenly I find myself at an intersection with two other damaged vehicles, police, and EMS personnel. After making the frantic call to my job to let them know what happened, I found myself instantly in the throes of despair. "How could this happen? Why do I always end up ruining my life? I'm going to lose my job, I can't afford another car, I am worthless." All this, and more, sounded through my head as I surveyed the scene. I went through the motions of giving my statement and information, calling family to get a ride home, getting my car towed, and taking care of my physical health. Not once did the thought "wow, this is really hard for me" cross my mind.
I actually struggled when others were trying to be kind. I tried to refuse the water and tissues offered me, I argued with those saying "it's okay, accidents happen," and I spent a lot of energy putting myself down and pointing out how horrible I am. There were moments when I realized that my efforts were not exactly effective; I knew I was standing at the crossroads of "old Holly" and "new Holly." Perhaps it's more like "miserable Holly" and "happy Holly." After the first two hours of trying to stay miserable it became clear that staying miserable was a decision that would lead me to self-destruction.
Staying miserable has been a forte of mine. I know how to let myself fall down that hole and get stuck for too long. Depression and darkness are comfortable when they're all you've known. I know that once I choose to be miserable I can take it to the extreme: self-injury, hospitalization and/or suicide attempt. However, I also know that I have a great life: a job I love, a wife I adore, friends I love and admire, and a budding business that is bound for great things. I would give that all up if I chose to stay unhappy. In order to continue in the direction I want, I couldn't make the decision to stay miserable, I had to take control and choose to handle the problems I had incurred.
Once you start to see the light, it starts to become harder to go back to those dark places. I'm at the point where I have known darkness longer than I have known light, so my comfort zone still lies with misery. However, I have found that remembering why I wanted to leave the darkness helps me to keep choosing the light. I did, eventually, gave up my "I ruin everything" outlook and started to piece together what I needed to do in order to make it through this event. Twenty-four hours later I'm not going to lie and say that the accident was "amazing" or "great," (I haven't completely lost my mind) but I do see that everything happens for a reason. I'm not quite sure what the reason is in this case, but keeping my faith in a higher purpose is what helps me to stay present and handle the situation. This is just another opportunity to stay mindful in the face of adversity. It is also an opportunity to truly practice what I preach and show myself some compassion.
I sincerely hope that no one else has to go through such drastic measures to understand why self compassion is important. Even when things seem dismal, there is always the option to try a better outlook. It isn't going to change your life all once, but maybe choosing to see another point of view will help open up a world of small opportunities to choose a positive outlook. And maybe those small opportunities will lead to bigger and better outlooks in the future. It takes years to build a life of comfortable misery, but it only takes one moment of hope to help start bringing in the light.