How can we hold our own hearts in an embrace that completely lacks judgment and criticism? How can we hold ourselves tenderly with compassion when we stumble, fail, and fall short of perfection? Can we change our default setting from what-is-wrong with us, to what-is-right?
There seems to be a cultural admonition to be self-critical, like we would have no desire to grow and improve if we were not harshly and continuously judging ourselves. Perhaps it is an absurd fear that our natural state is somehow that of a lazy and evil person who must be monitored closely by a prison guard. Perhaps some of it comes from this view of humankind as intrinsically “bad”, and in need of vigilant bullwhipping to keep us “in line”. Regardless of the origins, which we can only speculate about, this way of treating ourselves has only brought us suffering.
Contrast this relationship with self with the idea of treating ourselves like a friend that we unconditionally love. Does our “friend” ever screw up? Does our friend ever irritate us? Sure! Do we still love and accept them? Yes.
Pema Chodron (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7s-rRMUl04I) lectures, as many Buddhist scholars do, on the concept of Maitri (pronounced “My-Tree”), which is all about self-compassion. It is about having an unconditional friendship with one’s self. It is about being kind to our selves.
Self-acceptance, self-worth, self-esteem are the terms that we psychologists like to throw around to look at this sacred relationship we have with our own hearts. We wellness professionals know that when people are not being kind with themselves that lifestyle change is much harder. Why bother if we don’t care much about ourselves? How easy it is to cease our efforts to be healthy and well when our inner-critic (http://tamingyourgremlin.com/) finds fault with how we are doing it, or the adequacy of our results.
Wellness coaching emphasizes “coaching for connectedness”, and we usually think of social connections. Perhaps wellness begins with our connectedness to self, spirit and our own hearts.
Be well, and be kind to yourself.
Photo by Michael Arloski