Posted by Naomi Litrownik, LICSW
Many years ago, I led a moms’ workshop where I invited the moms to write down all the positive qualities of their children. With great eagerness, these moms wrote and wrote. Then I invited them to write down all their own positive qualities. A stillness descended on the room. A few began to write, others paused, holding their pens as if poised to write, but their papers remained blank. What is this about?
It is not easy to “befriend” yourself. In fact, it is quite hard to do! Our harsh judgments and our unrealistic expectations often get in the way. Our strong wishes that we could be different get in the way. Our comparisons with others, who may seem to have it so much easier, or whom we think do not suffer as we do, get in the way.
What to do? Here are some suggestions:
Allow yourself to acknowledge your vulnerabilities, your faults, your errors, your imperfections, without judging yourself “bad”, or a “failure” but rather accepting that you are human, and, remind yourself that, as human, we all make mistakes, we all fall short, and we all miss the mark at times.
Notice the way you treat yourself when you feel you have failed, notice the “mean self-talk”, the nasty things you say to yourself…..would you ever say these things to a friend or to a loved one who confessed to you a mistake she made?
Notice your own fear of disappointing yourself and others when you make a mistake. Notice your own tendency to compare yourself with others by saying, “if only I could be more like him; if only I wasn’t so sensitive…..”
Notice the shame you may feel when you know you have said or done something wrong……locate where you feel that shame in your body….is it in your heart? Your chest? Your head?
Invite yourself to befriend that shame, turning toward it, accepting it for how it feels “in the moment”, reminding yourself that it is a temporary feeling of intensity, it will lessen, rather than berating yourself for feeling the shame. Rumi, the philosopher poet, once said, “Don’t turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place…that’s where the light enters you.”
Invite compassion and loving kindness in for yourself. Wouldn’t you encourage a loved one or a friend to do that?
Soften your heart toward yourself. Breathe into this softened space.
Allowing yourself to accept yourself as you are “in this moment”. Noticing that, once you do, once you stop fighting with yourself about your words or behavior, you will be more inclined to change. Carl Rogers, an acute observer of human behavior, once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, I can change.”
Practicing this Metta, a statement of Friendliness and Loving Kindness towards oneself, encourages the attitude of “Making Friends With Yourself”:
May I feel Safe and Protected.
May I feel Happy and Peaceful.
May I feel Healthy and Strong.
May I live with Ease.
To learn more about Mindfulness, please check out Mindfulness Meditation, Mindfulness Living and the Open Meditation Sit on the NPA website.