Monday, June 28, 2010

"Be Gentle With Yourself"

"Be gentle with yourself." That's a bit of advice I'd often heard, but wasn't able to follow. I even took a spiritual development class on being gentle with myself. Still, the taskmistress in my head refused to be banished. Gentle? What nonsense! Life isn't about being gentle. It's about working hard, harder, harder, and winning, and being right. And whatever you are, or want to do, if it doesn't get you more money, it's stupid. And you're stupid for wanting those things.

There are much worse things that get said, too, but I don't want to tell you those.

My friend Zilan sent me a link to this page, and for some reason, the author words the message in such a way that I finally was able to understand how gentleness and lovingkindness towards myself is not lazy, undisciplined, or disgustingly self-indulgent.

Criticizing yourself, beating yourself up, feeling sorry for yourself, and being disappointed in your own behavior is not virtuous, honorable, or productive in any way. If you do it on a regular basis, you’ve been taught to believe that negative feedback is an effective way to motivate change.

That kind of thinking was taught to you by those who didn’t know any better than to make you feel worse so they could feel better. They did their job well because you sub-consciously believe that if you can make yourself feel bad enough, you’ll do better.

Fortunately, that’s not how it works. Negative feedback creates avoidance behavior, not inspired behavior. Otherwise, the only way we can be successful is by making ourselves miserable!

DING! I suddenly understand. I've been experimenting with refusal to judge myself when I do things like eat dessert for dinner, finish the bottle of Chardonnay at the end of the evening, lie on the couch watching Law and Order, or take the bus instead of walking the couple of miles home. And yes, almost all of my harsh self-judgment has had to do with eating and body image problems. I still struggle, but it has gotten easier since reading this article and, somehow, taking it to heart. I hope you find it helpful, too.


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