I wrote my memoir not sure why I needed to do this. I’m an artist. Having been painting and learning to paint better was my life. I knew little about writing.
But something deep inside was stirring. I had the urge to write about myself. Maybe I wanted to explore why I’d done what I had, but I was so intent on knowing truths that lay deep inside, the why’s seemed irrelevant. Something was there to explain why writing my story would make sense.
I couldn’t get what I was after by planning what to write. Thoughts kept me further from what I was after.
The truth comes from that place of feeling good; the place known to be in the flow. It’s where you embrace what is. We find truth living in the moment without a care in the world.
The truth never comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts are full of beliefs, judgments, and fears we formed through the years. Our thoughts are in the truth’s way. They’re the blocks to our happiness.
Arriving at the truth requires us to put aside our beliefs, judgements and fears. How do we do this? There are many teachers who can show you a way like Byron Katie, Joe Dispenza, and many other teachers on Mindvalley and other sites.
But I’ve found a simple way you can learn to do this for yourself. Writing your story will help you see where past experiences contributed to form those beliefs, judgments and fears. Let me give you an example from my life story.
When I was first married a long time ago, in the 60s, I believed I was beholden to my husband. He was the one earning the money I lived on while I was free to do what I wanted to do. In return for my freedom, I believed I had to comply to his wishes.
On Sunday nights, when our maid had the night off, I’d ask my husband if we and our four children could go out to dinner. He’d tell me it was okay. I bathed and dressed the children, and when I was ready to go my husband would decide he’d rather stay home. He’d go to the grocery store for TV dinners.
I’d feel harassed and beaten down. I’d cry.
Several years later my beliefs, thoughts and fears had gotten worse, and I became depressed, I went for therapy with a psychologist. When I told him what happened at our house on Sunday nights, he asked me why I didn’t take the children out without my husband.
It was as if a light bulb went on in my head, illuminating all the options I had that I hadn’t seen before. In that moment I realized no one was keeping me from going out to dinner but myself. The only reason I couldn’t see was that I believed it wasn’t possible.
Where did the belief that I couldn’t spend money without my husband’s approval come from? When writing about that time in my life, I saw how that belief came from all the times he admonished me for spending money. Each time I capitulated, and the more I didn’t question this belief, the harder it became to see any options for myself.
Writing my story helped me see how I’d believed I wasn’t good enough. Why else would I allow someone else to dictate what I can or can’t do?
The first step in changing and moving forward comes when we realize that questioning our thoughts leads to empowering ourselves. The opposite—when we blindly continue following our beliefs, judgments and fears—we disempower ourselves.
If you really want to change and move forward in your life, you need to begin to “clean house” of disempowering beliefs, judgments and fears. It gets easier with each success. In fact, after a while you will hear your thoughts and be able to turn them off.
One easy way to learn how to do the work of disempowering your thoughts is to go to Katie’s website https://thework.com/, where you’ll find a step-by-step description of how to do it.
I’ll be posting more about our thoughts in more posts, so stay tuned in. I welcome questions you might have for future posts.
Why has the subject of self-compassion become so trendy over the last few years? Why are psychotherapists, mindfulness teachers and life coaches touting its benefits today?
Self-compassion, a Buddhist belief, became a mainstream and popular idea when psychologist Kristen D. Neff of the University of Texas became interested in the subject. After reading Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness in 2003, Neff wrote a paper on the subject and it was that paper instigated a snowball of interest,
Neff tells us that self-compassion is based on the premise that showing kindness to oneself is essential for showing love towards others.
Three indispensable elements of self-compassion she found from her reading were:
- Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
- Common humanity vs. Isolation
- Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification
Since Ness’ paper, research has found that self-compassion has many positive rewards. You are less prone to anxiety and depression. Self-compassion bolsters confidence. Being kind to yourself can make it safe to fail, which encourages you to try again. You are more than likely to sustain stronger relationships with others. And psychologists have found that there are links between self-compassion and health-promoting behaviors related to eating, exercise, sleep and stress management.
My first encounter with the concept of self-compassion took place around 1980, way before all the hoop-la. I was driving back home from shopping with my daughter, who had just graduated college. Upset with myself over a mistake I’d made at a store with the money in my wallet, I was overcome with shame and guilt,
“I’m so stupid!” I told my daughter. “I can’t believe I did that! It was so careless. If I had just paid attention instead of talking so much, I wouldn’t have been so negligent with my money. I can’t imagine how I managed to pull a hundred-dollar bill out and lose it.”
“Mom, why are you being so hard on yourself,” my daughter asked? “You never speak to other people like that.”
That moment was an Aha! moment. Where had that negative self-talk come from? What my daughter told me was true. I had never scolded my children or criticized others like I just had done to myself.
A simple conversation, my daughter’s response ended up changing my life. I became aware I didn’t know my mind. There had to be a great deal more going on inside my head if I had been ignorant of what triggered my scolding myself.
Unfortunately, at that time, in the 80’s, no one was sharing advice with how to deal with self-judgment, much less self-compassion. It took a long time, and experiencing many clues, to finally learn how to deal with my negativity. But I never gave up wanting to know more.
All the self-help books I read didn’t approach the subject. It seemed like almost everyone around me was also judging themselves in one way or another. Most everyone believed our thoughts of judging and negative beliefs were true, part of being human.
Finally the first clue came from a book about forgiveness around 2009. Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping was written to help overcome anger and blame, however forgiving others also helped me to perceive gifts that I would never have received without those difficult encounters. Forgiveness served to give me a sense of peace.
Besides opening myself to a sense of compassion for the person I was angry with, I found myself able to forgive myself for my part in those broken relationships.
I also realized, through forgiving others, a stronger sense of commonality with all those I had judged and felt anger toward. But even though I felt compassion for others the voices in my mind persisted. They became more annoying now that I had felt that sense of peace.
Then I picked up Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I finally had a way to put an end to frustrating, habitual thoughts plaguing me. Singer suggests that, instead of fighting with them, by allowing them, not judging them, and by backing away from any connection with them, seeing them as the lies they were, they didn’t bother me anymore. I could even laugh at them.
I really thought that I had become enlightened, but that cocky attitude crumbled as anxiety and stress crept in again. I quit procrastinating, and began to meditate again. This time, instead of feeling more anxiety while I meditated, I enjoyed a deep peace.
Now I know what self-compassion is and what it’s done for me:
By doing all I could do to stop judging myself, I learned how important being kind to myself was. I laughed more, felt lighter, and loved myself more.
With forgiveness, I healed relationships. My anger had caused me to feel isolated from that person, and now a sense of our common humanity existed in its place.
With meditation, I became more mindful. Writing and painting are easier now that I can focus.
So, why bother doing all you need to do to become self-compassionate?
You’ll be kinder to yourself, you’ll enjoy being with yourself more, and you’ll feel more peace, love, and compassion.
You’ll be surprised with how much easier and better you have become at what you do. You’ll have more fun and work will feel like play. And a whole lot more!
It took me a long time to finally feel compassion for myself, but now with support all over the internet, such as Kristen Neff’s website, with everything you need to know about self-compassion, you can get the help to feel so much better about yourself.