I live in my own head. It’s not always comfortable in here.
I know about every one of my appalling mistakes, my thoughtless comments, the many ways I’ve let people (and myself) down.
Self-criticism helps us learn from errors and avoid them in the future. But for me, all too often, it has escalated into an ongoing cycle of shame and self-loathing. In my worst moments, I’ve even wondered whether the world might be better off without me in it.
Would I ever think that way about a friend?
Here are two good friends of mine, Nohem and Martha, along with myself and my amazing mom Ellie, at a Christmas market in Mulhouse, France.
Martha, Nohem and I became friends more than 15 years ago, when we all lived in Germany because of our spouses’ jobs.
We try to meet up in person every year or so. We start by reporting all the things that are going well: our family vacations, our successes. But gradually we reveal more. Difficult relationships. Regrets over missed opportunities. Fears about what might come next.
I hear their doubts, and I share mine. In their eyes and words there is unflinching support and deep compassion.
What if I could see even deeper into their minds, recognizing all of their flaws, failings and mistakes as I do my own? Would I despise them? Or would I embrace them even more closely, with love and understanding?
In Part 1, I suggested treating our bodies in the same way that we would treat a beloved, respected animal.
How about treating our entire selves as we would a friend?
Nohem, Martha, you and I, we are all flawed heroes, on a journey through life, often stumbling as we go.
But we all deserve self-care and the best health we can achieve. We deserve another chance, and another, even if we’ve fallen short in the past. We deserve to feel good about ourselves, in spite of our mistakes and physical flaws (pfft, physical flaws! Do you worry about those in a friend?).
I send my friends compassion. I send it to you. I have finally learned to start sending it to myself.