By Jamie L. Summers Stacks, LPC, LADAC
That voice inside that says “you don’t deserve this, you need to do more before you rest, go accomplish something”. The one that is deep inside you and has been there for as long as you can remember. It says to you “you are not worthy”. It tells you others are worthy, they deserve to take time for themselves. They deserve to really really do what they want to do, not just perform the tasks of self care because it is another thing they are “supposed to do”. You deem others as enough just as they are.
There is a fine line between true self compassion and the self care that involves acts of service to ourselves such as exercise, eating right etc. The question is how do we bridge that gap? How do we get to know ourselves and love ourselves unconditionally and find ourselves worthy of love and self care that truly nurtures us.
On love and compassion
How do we decide others deserve our love and compassion? I think this varies from relationship to relationship. For example, in our personal life with friends we get to know people. We learn about their story, their values, the things they do and like and we figure out if this resonates with us. From this information we decide if we want to form bonds with them. I don’t know that we always consciously do this but I believe we all have some form of assessment to decide, will this person will be a part of my life or not, when we are building our tribe.
Family is a whole other story. These are people that we are connected with from the start and by blood. Those that we are “supposed” to love but we don’t typically originally get to decide if we want that connection with them or not. Often we find that family members may have lives we do not really agree with. They may do things and believe things that we don’t and it may be that if we had a choice we would not choose to spend time with them but feel obligated to do so. Naturally there are often some family members we do connect with and actually enjoy spending quality time with despite not necessarily having say so over the start of our family connections.
Then there are our clients. We have a totally different relationship with clients but we tend to have a basic belief that our clients deserve our compassion and kindness. In choosing the field of therapy we know we will interact with all kinds of people some who are very different than we are. However, in deciding this we commit to treating these clients with respect and to showing them their worthiness and helping them see that they are enough as they are. We cultivate a connection with them that is based on getting to know them and helping them to know themselves well enough to begin to honor themselves with making good life choices.
So this basic right to compassion that we give to our friends, family and clients we often don’t give to ourselves. Think about that for a minute. People we interact with in all facets of our life deserve love, kindness, gentle care but we don’t?
How do we change this? How do we make the leap to loving ourselves? How about if we take the time to get to know ourselves? We so often never spend time alone really getting to know ourselves. We fill our hours with “doing”. It often takes sitting with ourselves and listening to our body, our minds and then talking as compassionately as we do to others to ourselves.
Nurturing yourself as you do others
Nurture yourself as you do your children and loved ones. Start to become aware of the kind words you use with others. What language and tone of voice do you use with kids or friends? Then become aware of the tone and language you use with yourself. If there is a difference (and there almost always is) how can you lovingly change that tone? This is a journey of learning nonjudgment so how can we use kindness to begin to change our self talk? Consider the things you encourage others to do. Nap when they are tired, participate in nourishing routines to sooth. Start implementing these activities (or the rest time)) in your own life and when that critical inner bully says you don’t deserve this then begin to play with changing your reaction to her. Ask her what she needs, what are the thoughts and triggers that make that inner bully attack and work towards forgiving her (you) for such harsh treatment and show compassion as you would to clients or family/friends.
Sitting with your inner bully
I find an exercise of sitting with that inner bully to be incredibly powerful. At this point the things we have done to make her go away have not made her go away, so let’s try something else. Have a chat with her- either out loud in a variation of the empty chair technique, in a journal writing exercise or simply invite her to sit with you in your mind. Take a look at where she began, when do you first remember her being with you? How do you let her impact your life choices? How can use the language and actions with her (you) that you do with others who struggle? Consider how you reframe things for clients who struggle with negative self talk and self sabotage. What do you say to them? What do you encourage them to change in their lives end how can you apply this to what you do in your life?
Learn from others
Creating connections with others who show themselves nurturing love can be powerful as well. Notice how they talk about themselves, how and what do they do differently with themselves? Talk with them, ask them how they go about using self care to better their life. Sharing with others the critical way you sometimes treat yourself and then listening and really hearing the things they share with you about how they see you can be strong as well . Choosing special people in your life to help you see the critical bully in your head is wrong can create change. We often dismiss compliments and kindness from others and learning to really accept these words as truth can go a long way in self love. We also create accountability partners who can help us see when we are holding ourselves to unrealistically high standards that are unachievable.
This is a topic that could fill thousands of books and blog posts but these are just a few places that I encourage you to start. I invite you to try these exercises and journal, process and share if you are comfortable how this experience is for you. This is so universal. We all struggle with that not enough and not worthy syndrome so rather than criticize it, let’s just explore it and see what happens.
Love and light
Last updated: 28 Dec 2015
Views expressed are those solely of the writer and have not been reviewed.
Originally published on PsychCentral.com on 28 Dec 2015
Photo by symphony of love
Summers Stacks, J. (2015). You are Worthy. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/whole-self/2015/12/you-are-worthy/
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