What can I say? I have been off path this month. I have felt uninspired, stodgy, dull and frustrated with myself. I ate CheezIts and ice cream for dinner one night. Not together, though I don’t know why that distinction matters. It does. The ice cream was my entree and then I ate the CheezIts after. Later, when I was feeling unwell, I said,
CheezIts and ice cream was a bad choice for dinner.
I’m not saying that one shouldn’t have ice cream for dinner. Ice cream is great! And, this isn’t even the ‘off-path’ part of this scenario. I intend to eat ice cream for dinner with CheezIt sprinkles if the mood strikes me. However, I was feeling like shit because I had been eating foods lacking in nutrition. I had not been moving my body. I was feeling depressed and then I ate ice cream and CheezIts for dinner. And this dinner choice lead to a spiral of self-destructive mind chatter. It sent me into the, I have been struggling with self-care for 44 years now with NOTHING positive ever happening ever space. I ate CheezIt ice cream for dinner and no, this isn’t a Ben & Jerry’s flavor. Everything is a disaster, now. And a friend said to me,
Hold on a minute, I’ve got to stop you there.
And this is where the self-compassion conversation picked up again. Thank you for the reminder.
In my 44 years, I have spent a lot of time thinking about what Healthy looks like and a lot of time plotting how I would get there. My ideals have been directed by a societal pressure that equates thinness with health and beauty. I made GOALS. I said, this is what perfect is and anything short of that is imperfect. It felt a lot like failing, a lot of the time. It felt dismissive of all the better than I could have imagined things happening on the way to the goal. In no way, did healthy ever look like, eating Cheezit ice cream for dinner. I must be failing, again. And the time between the CheezIts and ice cream dinner, the weight loss obsession, the extreme fitness exercise regimes, and the self loathing are the times when I am feeling healthy and in the flow. What about those times? How could I let a moment of dodgy dinner choice cloud a whole lifetime? Now would be a good time to practice self-compassion, my friend reminds me.
Self-compassion allows me to see that I am always moving towards greater awareness. The path has not been straight. It has zig-zagged a bit, double backed and meandered but, not necessarily been off-course. A kindness kicks in to replace all of the harsh self-talk. As, I define what health and beauty means for me, I learn to approach CheezIt ice cream dinner hangovers not as lapses or evidence of failure but, rather as a trimming of the sails. A reminder of what feels good for me and what is helpful in living my life as I intend. I have times when it is easy and times when I struggle.
Whatever I have done that is less than my perceived perfect is done. It is history. It is part of the history that makes my glorious life. I love it, All. And what I don’t like, well, I can change that.
Here are some ways to practice self-compassion if you are feeling critical. These practices are based on research by Karen Neff, PH. D, author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind and excerpted from 5 Strategies for Self-compassion by Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. writing for World of Psychology. Full article here.
Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Watch your language. Is it something you would say to a friend? If, not, then don’t say it to your self. Use kind words in self-talk.
Comfort yourself with a physical gesture. Kind physical gestures have an immediate effect on our bodies, activating the soothing parasympathetic system, Neff said. Specifically, physical gestures “get you out of your head and drop you into your body,” she said, which is important since “the head loves to run away with storylines.” For instance, she suggested putting your hands over your heart or simply holding your arm. Any gesture will do.
Have an arsenal of kind phrases at the ready, whenever you start with the ‘I am a disaster’ talk. Pick statements that really resonate with you. Combining that with a physical gesture — like hands over your heart — is especially powerful, Neff said. She uses the following phrases:
This is a moment of suffering.
Suffering is part of life.
May I be kind to myself in this moment?
May I give myself the compassion I need?