The idea of treating yourself like your best friend just doesn’t resonate with you. You’re not there. (Yet.)
You don’t remember the last time you were actually proud of yourself.
Whenever you make a mistake, you immediately get angry with yourself, and that anger lingers for a while. You also get easily disappointed, sometimes deeply disappointed—even if it’s just your to-do list going unchecked.
People sometimes say you’re too hard on yourself. And when you pause, and get really honest with yourself, you know they’re right. Because the slightest thing makes you feel like a failure, and your mind reaches for your normal cutting remarks, and starts the ruminating cycle. Wow. You’re so stupid. Wow. You should know better. Wow. How embarrassing and sad! Because your other typical reaction is to punish yourself, or to think you need to earn rest, love, and nourishment. And somehow, you never seem to earn them anyway.
You know the benefits of self-compassion. And you’d like to be kinder to yourself. But it doesn’t feel possible or natural. (Yet.)
So consider easing in.
Instead of practicing “self-compassion,” practice curiosity. That is, be open. Check in with yourself regularly. Ask questions. Listen fully. Try not to rush to judgment or criticism. Try new things. Experiment. And keep asking more questions. And keep paying attention. Notice, and try to remain neutral.
Think of yourself as a scientist, or a journalist, or an explorer who’s simply gathering information. And the subject is you. There are no sides to take, or viewpoints to debate. Think of yourself as both a character in a book, or as inspiration for a character and the author observing, collecting, and taking notes.
You can be curious about all kinds of things. Your feelings. Your physical sensations. Your favorite sights and sounds. Your actions, desires, and decisions. Your relationships. Your likes and dislikes. Your response to others’ words and actions. Anything that surrounds you.
That is, you might consider: How am I feeling today? Why am I tired? Why am I so upset about this situation? Why am I angry that I made that mistake? Do I feel any tension in my body? What thoughts are running through my mind right now? What am I yearning for? How do I feel when I wake up, and right before bed? What might be causing that? How’s the state of my home affecting me right now? Why do I so often feel so behind on work and life tasks?
And then you can practice acting on your answers. If you’re feeling upset, you might call a friend to talk. If you’re feeling tension in your body, you might practice a stretching sequence you found online. If you’re yearning to try something new, you might take a writing or dance class.
If you’re having a hard time falling asleep because of worries that pop up right before bed, you might keep a notebook on your bedside table to jot down your concerns, listen to a 10-minute guided meditation, and make your bedroom into a sanctuary.
When you’re thinking about acting on your answers, you might consider: What are some creative solutions? What are some fun, fascinating, helpful, supportive changes I could make?
Whether or not you think you deserve to reflect on your needs and desires, and to meet them is actually irrelevant. Whether you think you’re worthy doesn’t matter. It’s not up for debate. Because all you’re doing is simply experimenting. You’re engaging in a process, a journey, maybe even an adventure.
So set aside the self-doubt and wavering self-worth. For now it doesn’t matter. For now you have permission to simply be curious, and to act on that curiosity.
What happens when you do?