A few days before last New Year’s Eve, I was trying to update an app on my iPhone, but my phone was running low on memory. I took a look at the apps I still had on my phone that I wasn’t using, when I came across an app I hadn’t used in awhile. I’ve even mentioned this app on my blog before. It’s called Thought Diary. The app is designed to help with reframing negative or ineffectual thoughts and behaviors. When an unfavorable thought comes up, you record the situation, what you’re thinking about the situation, and the percentage you believe it. Then you record the “thinking error,” (i.e. black and white thinking), come up with a new thought to replace the old thought and record the percentage you believe the new thought. So for example, at that time, I could have been thinking that I was a loser for not having a date for New Year’s Eve (which was kind of true at the time). I would record the situation – no date for New Year’s Eve; the feeling – I’m a loser; how much I believe it – 80%; the thinking error – black and white thinking; the new thought – Even though I don’t have a date for New Year’s Eve, I get to spend it at home with someone I love, my mom…and the cat, and I’m grateful for that; how much I believe the new thought – 90%.
What I really loved about this app was how it brought those stinky feelings to the surface and really forced me to transform my thinking. I also loved how the app requires you to come up with a new thought, but then rate how much you believe it. So you still come up with a new thought, but if you’re not completely feeling the new thought, you can say so…it respects how you feel in the moment.
So what in the world does this have to do with self compassion, you may wonder. Well, I used this app a lot when my last relationship ended back at the end of 2011. Many of the thoughts and feelings about that situation were still stored within this app. When I was deciding whether or not to keep this app on my phone, I found myself going through them. Here are a few excerpts from entries over a two week period during that time:
Still haven’t heard from him. Trying to move on.
I feel myself shutting down. Isolation sounds really good right now.
Can’t stop crying.
Going through love withdrawal. Sad about it. Want to stay home from work today and sleep.
Don’t want to get out of bed and face the day.
Struggling with concentration, battling the anger I feel about him.
And there is much more that I won’t share here. My heart ached for myself as I read these words. I was really, truly hurt back then. But even though I was obviously hurting, I’m pretty sure I gave myself no compassion. In fact, I can recall being pretty judgmental and harsh, calling myself pathetic, ridiculous, desperate, and thinking that I really needed to get over this guy…quick.
As I remembered the likeliness of how harsh I had been to myself back then, I thought,
If I would have known then what I know now…I would have given myself more compassion.
If these words had been written by someone other than me, I would have given that person compassion and loving words. Sometimes you have to step outside of yourself to give yourself compassion.
If you are continually judging and criticizing yourself while trying to be kind to others, you are drawing artificial boundaries and distinctions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation. -Kristin Neff
Now perhaps someone somewhere thinks that those entries from my diary are pathetic and that I needed to get over it. But one thing I have learned is that we need to be our own best advocate for our own emotional well being. As I read those pain-filled words, I wanted to reach back and hug myself, and tell myself that although I hurt right now, that I wouldn’t hurt forever. I wanted to remind myself of my beautiful qualities and that I would someday find a special guy who appreciates those qualities.
But the truth is that I cannot get those moments back. However, I can make a living amends to myself:
From this point on, I will give myself compassion when I am in pain by first trusting that I am in pain and then believing that I am worthy of compassion through any kind of pain. And when I find it difficult to do this, I can step outside of myself and give myself compassion as I am giving it to a beautiful, deserving friend.