Take a break from the taskmaster in the mirror
In my last article, I talked about the importance of self-care and how, together, acupuncture and a healthy lifestyle could support and encourage better emotional and physical health.
But self-care also relates to our psychological health, especially in terms of how we perceive and value ourselves in spite of the many flaws that we’re always very quick to see and always inclined to focus or dwell upon.
Self-compassion – that ability to love ourselves in spite of the things that, given half a chance or a passing genie with a magic lamp, we’d probably choose to change if we could – is hard.
It requires us to be comfortable in our own vulnerabilities, and that’s counterintuitive when most of us have been conditioned to measure ourselves against perfection.
I know this is true because, probably like you and pretty much everyone I know, I suffer with exactly the same thing. Consider this article, then, to be part of my own journey along the path to self-compassion.
As I sit and type these words into empty white space, I’m conscious that even admitting to my own vulnerability around self-perception to a piece of paper, inanimate and non-judgemental, feels awkward and strange and uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable enough, in fact, that I can feel the presence of a small knot forming in the pit of my stomach as I contemplate sharing them for the world to see.
I know I can stop writing and delete these paragraphs at any point, and the thoughts and feelings they contain would stay locked, unseen by others, in the little mental box that I’m aware I open up and examine more often than I should.
Maybe I’ll lose my nerve. I hope not, because what I have to say to myself is important. You’ll be the first to know if I did or not.
All of which is really just a way of me saying that what I’m about to share really is for myself as much as it is for you or anyone else. It’s not a lecture, or a how-to guide, or a judgement of how you’ve chosen to manage self-compassion until – and maybe beyond – now.
It’s simply a collection of thoughts on why it’s important for all of us to take a break from the relentless demands and judgements of the taskmaster you see in the mirror every day, and instead learn to say: I’m okay with who I am.
And maybe, if we can all take that one small step, we can move on to learning to actively like who we are. And while loving who we are is a longer journey, all journeys start with a single step, and putting one foot in front of the other will get us there in the end.
A non-existent problem of our own making?
But we’re getting ahead of things. First things first, it’s important to know the difference between what’s real and what’s not.
Our self-compassion is driven by self-perception and when it comes to self-perception, we can be guilty of seeing flaws in ourselves that may not even exist.
What’s more, we are often deceived into benchmarking our own values, attributes, and characteristics against the assumed strengths of others.
We make assumptions about the happiness, abilities, strengths, and successes of other people, and then measure our own worth against them.
We wonder why someone else is happier than we are. We may be hard on ourselves because we feel we’re not as kind or generous or sympathetic as others. Maybe we use perceived success of others as the stick to beat ourselves with.
Much of this is smoke and mirrors. How can it be of any benefit to us to judge who or what we are by who or what we think others are?
We’re hard on ourselves because we’ve set ourselves up for emotional failure. Sometimes, that’s the result of a traumatic or unpleasant experience but often it’s something of our own making.
What is self-compassion?
Second, we need to understand what self-compassion is if we are to have any chance of practising it.
Self-compassion is the ability to be kind to, and understanding and accepting of, oneself, especially during times of difficulty or distress. When we practice self-compassion we treat ourselves with the same level of care, concern, and compassion that we might show a close friend or loved one.
Why is self-compassion important?
Self-compassion has numerous benefits, including improved emotional well-being, reduced stress, and increased resilience.
Research has shown that individuals who practice self-compassion are less likely to suffer with anxiety, depression, and shame, because self-compassion involves recognising and accepting our own imperfections instead of using them to judge ourselves.
When we are able to do this, we experience greater emotional balance, self-confidence, and self-worth, we reduce stress, and we improve our ability to shut down negative self-talk or self-blame.
Self-compassion can also help to reduce the negative effects of trauma, promote healing, and support better physical health.
So, if there are so many benefits to being more compassionate and loving, why do we find it so difficult to change how we respond to our own imperfections?
The answer is that losing the critical inner voice is hard and requires determination, resilience, and commitment.
Creating a more compassionate mindset and environment
In simple terms, the key to achieving greater self-kindness lies in creating a state of mind and an environment where we can spend time with ourselves and begin to understand and connect to who we really are.
We all lead busy lives but finding time and the right peaceful location to do this, away from distractions and demands, is essential in order to commune with our fears and flaws in an uncluttered and honest way.
How acupuncture can help
Acupuncture can be really helpful here because it’s a powerful holistic treatment that rebalances our natural healing energy, allowing us to dial down stress, relax and find a calm space within.
With regular acupuncture treatment we can maintain greater emotional balance over a longer period of time, allowing the time we invest in finding a more compassionate relationship with ourselves to be more effective and productive.
And, of course, because acupuncture is holistic it has the added benefit of being able to resolve other physical and emotional issues – including those we may not even be aware of at the time.
We all need to work harder on being kind to ourselves. We wouldn’t dream of treating our friends or family the way we sometimes treat ourselves. If the journey of self-compassion is one you want to start or have already started, and you feel like sharing your story with me, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me in total confidence.
And if you think acupuncture could be helpful in renewing or improving your relationship with the authentic you, I would be honoured to help, and you can get in touch with me for a no-obligation friendly chat.