I have recently come to realise that I don’t treat myself as gently as I do others. And I wonder whether this is a common theme in our lives. Why do we expect so much of ourselves and often much more than we do of others? Is it some subconscious superiority complex? Do we overestimate our own abilities? Or, is it that we simply don’t feel like we have another option?
I began evaluating this when I came to the realisation that my inner monologue was a lot harsher than anything I would ever say to anybody else. Part of me was willing to brush over it – I mean a bit of tough love never hurt anybody right? The other part was intrigued. After some introspection I have a theory (for myself at least).
When you give advice to someone else, they weight it up with their own ideals and eventually make some sort of a decision as to how they are going to act, think, feel etc. Sometimes there is opposing advice from other people, sometimes there isn’t, but at the end of the day you are put in a position where you have to recognise that the decision is theirs and you can’t necessarily know or understand all reasoning behind it.
On the other hand, most of us have a fairly intimate knowledge of our own thoughts and experiences. So when it comes to giving ourselves guidance, we are less accepting of our own apprehensions and concerns. And with this comes the sting of words we would never say to anyone else, a sting that becomes a normality after long enough.
From my own experience this reaction is most often due to a lack of patience. I find that if put in an emotionally taxing scenario that I know other people have also gone through, or which I deem to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I end up telling myself that it is unreasonable for me to take time to process or resolve the issue, or at the very least to be upset. ‘Just get over it’ has become a bit of a mantra, one that I think I need to change.
So how do we begin to treat ourselves more gently? Well that’s something I plan on working on over the next few months. I think that it will be a bit of trial and error, because it’s generally pretty ingrained to expect a lot of yourself, but hopefully this is another instance where practise makes perfect. I’m going to start by trying to recognise each time I expect more than is fair, and then try to be objective, as if I was giving advice to someone else. After all, I think we need to sometimes remember that we should treat ourselves with the same patience, acceptance and respect with which we aim to treat others.
If you’re looking for some support with self-compassion, try Dr Lydia Brown, a leader in mindfulness-based self-compassion in Melbourne: http://www.lydiabrown.com.au/