The relationship we have with ourselves is the most important one we have. The way we treat ourselves sets the tone for how we treat others. This idea has gotten me through the forest of anger to the shores of compassion and understanding many times with folks in my life. It has helped me to realize that, if someone is treating me badly, they must be getting it even worse. The truth is, nearly everyone is doing this and very few have found a way to break the cycle.
I can say from investigating my own thought patterns that I came to think this way using the justification, “I won’t grow unless I really scold myself for my mistakes.” I know I heard this idea thrown around and I totally bought it. The fear that drove this was that if I didn’t scold myself in this way, I would never learn and become soft and undisciplined. As I developed into my twenties, I started to notice that all of the areas where I was beating myself up were the same areas that I was not growing. I began to discover that talking to myself harshly about my mistakes brought up feelings of shame and inferiority, both of which kept me convinced that I could not do any better.
What I’ve learned is that a good dose of firmness mixed with compassion (a la last week’s blog post) is what leads to the most growth. Doing this, I can hold myself accountable without bringing up negative emotions. This allows me to, with a good amount of objectivity, assess my behavior and make a plan to do better in the future. That’s what I want. That’s what we all want --- growth spurred by understanding and compassion rather than scorn and shame.
This week I propose a challenge: Notice the way you talk to yourself when you’ve made a mistake. After you’ve done this, ask yourself if this is a way that you would allow someone else to talk to you. If it is, you are most likely showing yourself kindness and understanding. If not, make a change. Trust that you can grow without shame and try showing yourself the firmness and compassion that is important to maintain any healthy relationship. If you do, be ready for the nature of all of your relationships to develop into truly collaborative and supportive ones.