“The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you, its courage and daring. In me, it’s weakness.”
– Brené Brown
When needing comfort, I can always look to my friends. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of them are salty; most are sweet.
I turn to them for connection. Solace. Love.
And, for a brief time, they provide. Or at least I think they do. For when I am with them, I am often numb to the very things I turned to them for in the first place.
The thing is, I know these friends come with a price. Inevitably, I feel frustration, shame, and remorse whenever I take them in. Indulge in them for support.
I also know that they are not to blame. They are who they are. Neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.
So why do I attach so much meaning to them? Knowing, logically, it’s unfair to do so. That it makes no sense.
What part of me drives this behavior? What part of me is looking for whatever I feel is missing? Or knows no other way to self soothe in times of distress?
And, more importantly, how can I forgive her? Show her compassion and love – this part of myself I’ve grown to despise?
Image by Lina Trochez from Unsplash
I know I’m not alone, but it’s easy to feel that way. The pendulum swings for many from one extreme to another when it comes to coping strategies.
So often, we return to the ones we know are unhealthy, whether mentally, physically, or spiritually. They are the most seductive. The most comfortable.
They are quick, easy, and immediate. But, unfortunately, so is the fallout. So why do we keep returning to them?
I think the answer can be complex, no doubt. And, if you have a need to know the “why” behind your behavior, it can add even more pieces to the puzzle.
But, what if we could remove the layers, one by one, and come to a core truth? A simple solution? One that would take practice, yes, but isn’t difficult to understand.
On the surface, that answer may seem too simple. Too passive. Easily brushed off and ignored.
But I know all too well how difficult it is to show myself compassion. And, again, I don’t think I am the only one.
When we’re young, most of us are taught to share. To be kind and caring to others.
But somehow, as we get older, that concept becomes much less important. We need to be smarter, faster, stronger, than the next person. Kindness becomes a synonym for weakness.
As a result, the same mentality is often turned on ourselves. We must be our own worst critic, otherwise we’ll never improve or get ahead. That’s what “they” say, right?
They. But who are “they” and why do “they” get to make all the rules? And why, collectively, have we chosen to listen to them in the first place?
Maybe it’s time to stop listening to them. To accept their ways of doing things. And find a different path.
One that looks inward to our own authority. Our own wisdom. One that goes beyond our logical mind.
Our brains are powerful, and they are impressive no doubt. But we can also become their captive.
When we have a thought, our brains go into overdrive to prove that thought to be true. Quickly looking for evidence to back up our original thought. And we are often unaware of it.
This, in turn, leads to a feeling. And that feeling leads to a behavior, further supporting your original thought.
It looks something like this: Thought: “I’m worthless” = your brain finds all the reasons to back up why you are worthless (past mistakes, perceived failures, etc) = Feeling: emptiness = Behavior: turn to food to fill the emptiness = Return to original thought with more evidence to back it up because of the behavior.
It’s a constant loop that keeps us stuck. One that deepens the grooves we’ve developed in our brains. The easy, familiar path.
So, what could help us become unstuck? Again, I return to compassion.
Compassion for our past traumas, choices, or mistakes. For not knowing how to cope with them. For soothing ourselves the best way we could at the time.
And most importantly, compassion for the parts of us that are screaming for our attention. They desperately need us. And maybe it’s time we listened.
And when I say listen, I don’t mean with our judgmental brain. The one with the thoughts that got us to these unhealthy coping strategies in the first place.
We need to listen from another place. A much wiser place. One that we are deeply connected to but many of us have lost our ability to hear it when it speaks.
Our intuition. Which is deeply connected to the wisdom of our bodies.
This duo can provide us with the answers we seek, but we have to learn to quiet our minds to do so. And that, in itself, can be a challenge.
We are pulled in so many directions, it’s hard to keep up. And we can easily feel like we’re being selfish if we focus on self-care. That we should focus on more important things.
But what could be more important? We must care for ourselves. Not from a place of selfishness and greed, but from a place of compassion and love.
And our intuition, combined with the wisdom of our bodies, will help guide the way.
If you’ve been disconnected for a long time, it will take strength, patience, and consistent practice. Your brain may try to interject. Tell you this is pointless or stupid.
But don’t be too hard on your brain. It’s only doing what it knows how to do by trying to keep you safe. So, show it compassion, too.
And with this, I’m brought back to the part of myself that I mentioned earlier in this article. The part of me that needs my compassion and forgiveness. The one that drives my need to find comfort in food.
And, suddenly, I’m struck with a sense of knowing. One not from my brain, but my intuition. One that makes my chest tight and heavy.
I need her forgiveness. And for that, I must show myself compassion as I look ahead at the challenge that lay before me.
And if I can do that, it will only add to the compassion I can share with others.
How can you show yourself more grace and compassion? Love all parts of yourself, even if they aren’t very pretty.