Me hearties, I discovered something a few months ago that came as rather a shock - I’m a fraud when it comes to self-compassion. A well-intentioned, well-informed fraud, but a fraud nonetheless. As we all know by now, 1000 Hearts is based on two key principles; self-compassion and kindness to others, and it turns out that the first one is much harder than I thought!
I started this project to explore these concepts and I’m very grateful that so many people have joined me for the ride. I hope no one was expecting me to be an expert on this stuff, because I’m just fumbling along in the dark like everyone else. Self-compassion doesn’t come naturally to me and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.
Here’s an example of how bad I was at it. Recently, my 18 yo old daughter Mads and I were talking about what to wear to a mindfulness class (more on that in a later post) and she suggested I wear my running pants, which are really tight. I said “I can’t wear those in public! That would be unforgivable!”
Mads said "You have nothing that people need to forgive you for! Say it! Say ‘I have nothing people need to forgive me for!’
Me: *takes a deep breath and shouts* "I HAVE NOTHING!!!"
Yup, so that kind of sums up how bad I was at being kind to myself, which was becoming a bit of a problem. Let me explain…
1000 Hearts is all about kindness (obviously) and I really believe that kindness to others has less meaning if it’s not grounded in kindness towards ourselves. It feels a little shallow or insincere if we are unable to offer it inwards – like the shoemaker whose children go barefoot, it shows a lack of care and attention towards the source and soul of what we’re putting out into the world.
I honestly thought I was all over this self-compassion caper. I’ve studied it and taken courses and taught it to others in therapeutic settings. I’ve read the books and done the online study and can recite the principles forwards and backwards. I thought I was doing OK at it, until I realised that I wasn’t actually practicing it and didn’t really understand how to make it work for me.
This rather horrifying realisation came about as a result of a prolonged and awful bout of anxiety. I’ve always been the anxious sort and have all sorts of coping strategies (i.e. survival tactics), but I went through a few months that were an all-out, no-holds-barred battle. Although I’m considered high-functioning, sometimes the cost felt pretty huge, especially when I started losing sleep and my health was impacted.
So…I started looking inward and talking to the people I love and trust. I started sharing it more, trying not to pretend so hard that everything was fine. I spoke to my boss and cancelled a work trip that felt like too much. I chatted to a few colleagues about it and sat with my dearest friends in the space of vulnerability (god, it’s so much easier to write about than it was to do it! Brene Brown is right - vulnerability is hard). I ugly-cried with my Dad and called my sister.
And through it all, I kept hearing the same message; “Go easy on yourself. Be gentler. Have you tried self-compassion?”
YES! I felt like screaming – I’ve tried self-compassion!! I’ve taught it and studied it and read the books and I know all about it!!
But it turns out that teaching and studying and reading and knowing actually have nothing to do with anything. Because with self-compassion, you have to practice it in a way that is helpful for you, and that’s where I got a bit unglued, me hearties.
I’m going to explore this in my next few blog posts because if there’s anyone else out there as clueless and resistant and delusional as me, I want to offer up my experience in the hope it might resonate. This upcoming series of blogs is not a how-to guide from any kind of expert. It’s a very personal account from an imperfect, struggling human who is trying to make sense of it all and find a better way.
I look forward to sharing the journey with you...actually, that's a lie - I'm kind of dreading the vulnerability of sharing it all, but let's do this thing together anyway x
A follow-up to last year's posts about self-compassion, and a reminder to heartists that kindness starts with our own imperfect selves.Read more
How to safely make and share hearts during the COVID-19 pandemicRead more