Celebrate Love

Written by: Meaghan Highway, LMHC

“Just as hate can’t conquer hate — but only strengthens and reinforces it — self-judgment can’t stop self-judgment.” (Kristin Neff)
Love is in the air – or at least, romantic love has been thrust into the limelight this month. Everywhere we turn, we are met with frothy pink hearts and scarlet roses. People tend to respond to this focus on love on a continuum – angst at the reminder, indifference towards the attention, enthusiastic acceptance of all things romantic – or some mix of all three! No matter what your response is to Valentine’s Day, it does lead to a potential good experience: realizing the need to show love and compassion toward ourselves.
Showing compassion towards ourselves is not narcissistic, or disdaining of others’ needs. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that the more we are able to show compassion towards ourselves, the better equipped we are to spread love to others. Kristin Neff (quoted above) has been one of the more recognized voices on the self-compassion movement, and her thought brings out an important point: compassion is the antithesis of judgment.
How do you go about increasing self-compassion in your life? Here are some suggestions to try:
1. Consider this question: Would you talk to your best friend, the way you speak to yourself? Typically, we are very judgmental towards ourselves on a daily basis, but we might not even be conscious of this. Think back to the last time you made a mistake – what was your reaction? A lot of people might respond to a mistake with some kind of inner dialogue similar to this: I’m so dumb; I can’t believe I did that; I will never get this right. These kinds of thoughts are so automatic that we might not even be aware that we’re thinking them – but over time, they can be a detriment to our self-esteem. Chances are that you would be a lot more compassionate towards your best friend than you would be normally towards yourself – but you deserve the same consideration. This leads to…
2. How can you change your inner dialogue? Consider this example: you made a mistake and put a new red shirt in with a load of white clothes – and everything that was once snowy came out of the wash Barbie pink! When this happens, observe what you are telling yourself. As mentioned above, maybe your knee-jerk reaction is to berate yourself for your slip-up. Instead of continuing down that mental path, try injecting some compassion into your inner monologue. Some compassionate thoughts might include: It was a mistake – everyone makes those, all the time. I’m frustrated that all my once-white clothes are now my daughter’s favorite color, but this is not a catastrophe. I am human, so I will never achieve perfection – but I am still a good person. Actively replacing your tearing-down thoughts with lifting-up thoughts is a good habit to cultivate, but it takes practice, which leads to a question:
3. Why not keep a brief thought journal? When you find yourself in a tough spot, practice noticing what you tell yourself during these moments. Keep a small notepad and pen in your pocket or purse, and when you remember, note down what the experience was and what you were thinking at the time. After some time, you might notice patterns coming out – i.e. you are more susceptible to negative thoughts during a certain time of day, when you’re sick, before you’ve had your morning java, etc. Becoming aware of that can better equip you to deliberately integrate compassion into your inner thought life, paying specific attention to those times that you now know will need an added slathering of self-love. Try writing down particular compassionate statements that work for you and keep them handy, so that when you’re in a rough moment you can pull them out and go over them. (Examples include: I am doing the best I can, and that is enough. I am deserving of support from the people in my life. I only have so much time in a day, and what I don’t complete will be there for me tomorrow… I can put it down, now.)
No matter what you feel about the romantic focus this month, choose to use it as a time to implement more self-compassion into your life. Not only do you deserve this boost, but it will also help you be better equipped to respond to the relationships you already have. Join with others around you in celebrating love – in its many, many ways!

Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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