Practicing self-compassion

I’ve learned over the years that I have pretty strict requirements for the amount of rest, downtime, and self-care I need in order to maintain my mental, emotional, and physical health. Compared to most people, this is fairly narrow range of tolerance for extra doing, decreased sleep, or missed routines.

This week has been extra hectic and stressful just because of the confluence of  too many things all at once. I’ve been packing too much into my days, staying up too late at night, and skipping my morning pages some mornings to squeeze in a little extra rest. Missing my morning pages has left me feeling off-kilter during the day, which adds to the stress, and the lack of downtime and sleep has worn me down.

Despite the fact that I haven’t done anything heroic (or even as intense as many people do all the time), I have exceeded my limits, and I’m exhausted. My body is enforcing its limits with a low-grade fever, a scratchy throat, a cough, and sinus congestion. I had planned to go to a workshop tonight and tomorrow, but I finally had to surrender to my body’s needs, skip the workshop, and head to bed early.

While I have learned the hard way over the years to honor my body’s demands when I hit this point, my initial instinct is to do so grudgingly. I am frustrated at having to live within these tight limits to stay healthy. I am hard on myself for not being able to do everything other people seem to be able to do with ease. I hate that I sometimes have to let people down because I just can’t keep going.

But as I entered that usual state of self-criticism tonight, the information about self-compassion that I shared yesterday keeps coming back to mind.

My judgment and self-criticism all comes out of a place of comparison to others, and comparison has no place in self-compassion. If I let go of the comparison, I can simply choose to honor my body’s needs and treat myself with compassion by getting the rest that I need.

When I let go of comparison or the need to “prove” anything to anyone, I can make choices about what I can and can’t take on that are self-honoring and compassionate and that serve my greater health. This sounds selfish, but I’ve learned that I can only serve and be generous to others when I have made sure that my own tank is filled first. When I try to give out of my emptiness, it never winds up being a good thing for anyone involved.

And so, I am not only choosing to take care of myself tonight out of necessity, I am choosing to take care of myself tonight in the spirit of self-compassion, without the judgment and comparison and self-criticism I usually bring along for the ride.

An early goodnight to you all!

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7 thoughts on “Practicing self-compassion

    • Thank you! I’m learning that, but it’s a lesson I have to keep learning when it means that I can’t do all of the things I want to do. But the rest last night helped, and I do feel a bit better.

  1. I feel EXACTLY the same way you do with my own energy restraints, need for solitude, rest and harsh criticism of myself. Self-compassion is something I have been working on and am getting better at but I still find myself berating myself for not being able to do as much as other people before getting tired/worn down. We are all different and just have to learn to respect our own limits and needs. I am glad you’re developing compassion for yourself. We can never be too compassionate to ourselves or other people!

    • Thanks, Natalya! It’s good to know that I’m not alone in this. It’s so often easier for me to be compassionate toward others than it is for me to show compassion to myself, but I’m learning that treating myself with compassionate actually increases my compassion for others in the long run!

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