This is a lesson that I think many of us need to learn when we are aiming to improve or progress our lives in some way. It could be about losing weight but then gaining it back again. It could be about giving up alcohol and then slipping up one night out with the boys or girls. It could be that we have made some headway with our finances and then something unexpected comes along that sets us back again financially. It could be that we have struggled to beat anxiety or depression and we have put into place some great routines but then something happens that throws us off for a while.
We can then make the HUGE mistake of thinking that we are back where we were before we began the journey to self-improvement. However, this is a mental, emotional and spiritual trap!
It is at these times that we may get very frustrated, upset, sad, emotional and begin to have global and negative thoughts about our capabilities.
Our self-esteem and self-worth and confidence may take a knock and we may begin to doubt whether the tools or strategies that we have used to help improve our situation have really made a difference at all. We may think that we were just “fooling ourselves” into thinking we had finally achieved some measure of success and that we now have the right to feel good about what we have achieved and maybe even share that with the world. Because, we had thought in our folly, maybe we could help those who are on the path but who may be a little further back on the pathway and who may need some guideposts to get where we thought we had gotten to. Terrible English I know but you get the point so that’s all I care about.
And this is where the most important thing we can do, not only for ourselves but for all those who need our help, is to have a huge dose of SELF-COMPASSION.
Self-compassion is not something which the world of academic psychology has paid much attention to even though there is some growing interest in the topic as a method of helping people.
Of course, it makes intuitive sense that those struggling with how they are feeling about themselves and their lives would benefit from some self-compassion but what does that really mean in practical terms?
Well, it means, quite simply, that we need to realise that progress in life is non-linear, which means that there just isn’t such a thing as things going up and up and up with no dips, no dives, no trips, no falls or moments of “weakness”. It is all part of the same journey you see and you cannot have progress without some form of struggle. You cannot generate an unbelievably strong desire to improve and to make significant changes in your life if there isn’t something which is causing you some kind of pain. I am not glorifying painful life experiences but I AM saying that they are actually quite necessary in motivating you to learn how to avoid them in the first place. They are integral in melding who you are and who you are becoming in this lifetime and, of course, what you have learned and are now able to teach others.
In those moments when we fall down…again…and again…could it be that one of the absolute best things we can do for ourselves in those moments of despair is to be KIND TO OURSELVES? And how do we do THAT I hear you say?
We can develop greater self-compassion by:
- Realizing that it is inevitable that progress is never linear and smooth sailing, even after we seem to have achieved some modicum of success and even broken through some difficult barriers;
- Understanding that there will ALWAYS be more challenges which at first may seem unfair after all our hard work to improve, grow, change and get better at something. However, rather than get upset about the challenge or set-back, we can see it as just another level of depth that we have gained in our knowledge and understanding of how to beat or overcome the thing we are trying to so hard to beat or overcome! With every new distinction we make, with every new realisation that we can make a little tweak here or there we do in fact get stronger and stronger.
- Allowing ourselves to have those down days. It is okay to have some level of self-pity but not for long. In fact, the quicker we move away from self-pity or worse, self-condemnation, the quicker we are likely to recover and get back up on that horse and get going in the direction of our desires and dreams again.
- Remembering a few important golden nuggets about resilience which are that: resilient people are not impervious to pain, difficulty or struggle. They are those who experience these things and CHOOSE the mindset that these are part of life and just don’t allow these things to hold them back from reaching for their dreams or from just being good, decent, kind and loving human beings.
In closing, let us always remember that the sun is always shining high above the clouds and even on those darkest, cloudy and rain filled days, the sun is still just there waiting with its warm and life-giving rays for us to let it in. It just takes a little bit more time sometimes. Be patient with yourself and get up again…with compassion.