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Note to Self: Be Compassionate
Sickness and Self Compassion
I shouldn’t have been surprised when yesterday, my throat went from scratchy to burning. My head went from a little warm to feeling heavy. My body went from hot to cold to hot again.
I thought back to this past weekend; I ran outside in the rain, I danced a little too close to my coughing friend, I sat next to the sniffling family on the plane home. I had to admit, I was sick.
I tried to ignore these symptoms during my back to back zoom meetings, but when the evening came, I found myself curled up on the sofa, ready for a nap.
In the back of my mind, something nagged at me.
I still have to write my essay for the week.
As I closed my eyes, I started planning another late night of writing so that I could hit my self imposed deadline.
A lesson in self compassion was coming for me.
In the last couple years, I’ve been exposed to the idea of self compassion, which differs from self love. I always felt as though I loved myself. Sure, I have little insecurities, but I’ve generally been happy with who I am.
Self compassion is more about having empathy for myself.
As I laid on my couch, tired and visibly sick, I turned to beat myself up.
Why did I wait so long to write my essay?
Why do I keep staying up to write these pieces in the middle of the night?
Deep down, I feared that missing my writing deadline would mean that everything I’ve worked towards would fall apart. Maybe I’d never write again. Maybe my writing group would kick me out. Maybe I hadn’t actually built a sustainable habit.
I discovered self compassion during my sabbatical. In the infinite search to better myself, I was reading every self help book I could get my hands on. So when I noticed I was starting to become very critical of my sister, my mom, basically anyone who crossed my path, I knew I had an issue and figured there would be a book out there that could help me.
To my surprise, my Google searches for books on criticizing others turned up the suggestion to read books on self compassion. Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion was one of the most popular books for this genre so I bought it on audible. This is when I realized the relationship between criticizing others and a lack of self compassion for myself. My own internal critic was projecting itself onto the people around me. I started to run through Neff’s exercises around self compassion and found so much inner peace when I learned to be kind to myself.
Laying sick on my couch, I faced my inner critic once again. The person inside of me who was scared that if I missed my deadline, I was bound for failure. This inner critic had no faith in my ability to keep writing every week.
Realizing I was stressing myself out, I knew I had to make a decision. Logically, I knew staying up late had already had a negative impact on my health, and doing so while I was sick was only going to slow down my ability to get better.
A self compassion trick I like is pretending as though my problem is a friend’s problem. I imagined a friend telling me that they were sick, but wanted to ignore that so that they could get an essay out earlier.
I can’t even imagine encouraging anyone to do that. I’d have empathy and tell them, “it’s ok, no one will even notice and what’s the point in continuing to suffer?”
So I went to bed at a reasonable hour last night. I guess I wasn’t perfectly fine with the decision, as I still had dreams about writing this essay. Still, I woke up feeling well rested and motivated to write this piece.
I’m happy I had the tools to recognize I needed rest and decided to lean into self compassion. And maybe I was a little careless when I was away this weekend, but I also forgive myself for enjoying life and spending too much time in the rain.
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