When I was younger, my family went to Chicago to stay with my aunt for Thanksgiving. The Sears Tower, Lakeshore Drive, the original Chicago Theatre- I was a book nerd in a historical city and even then standing as tall as my father’s hip, I was amped and ready to go.
We had flown in late the night before, but I remember waking up the next morning, getting ready, having breakfast and getting dressed. “And we’re off!” I yelled as I bounded to the door. That’s when I saw my aunt’s face.
“Girl, this ain’t New York cold. This is Chicago, our cold is real cold. Come here let me give you a real jacket.”
Her next order of business was to take off the velvet (or velveteen, who knows- don’t judge; it was the 90s) jacket I had on and replace it with what I can only describe as a cape made of the material camping blankets are made of. Thinking back on that day, I can recall all the landmarks I visited, all the places I saw but most of all, I remember feeling like there were masseuses with sandpaper rubbing down my skin.
This whole experience is what came back to me as I was reading through an article in the New York Times about learning self-compassion. In the article, Tara Pope write how new research “suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health.” She continues, writing:
People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic.
Dr. Kristen Neff, an associate professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin is a pioneer in self-compassion research. She says that in her time she has found that “the biggest reason people aren’t more self-compassionate is that they are afraid they’ll become self-indulgent. They believe self-criticism is what keeps them in line. Most people have gotten it wrong because our culture says being hard on yourself is the way to be.”
Many of us, can speak harsher to ourselves than we do to others, and often as part of ‘tough love.’ We feel that if we can come down hard on ourselves we set the bar higher. However, the truth is that speaking kindly to yourself can often help you see past the bars to greater possibilities.
In relearning how we speak to ourselves, its important we re-think our notions of what it means to be compassionate. We all know how to show affection to others, but we can often find it to be a harder task when it comes to ourselves. Do we give ourselves the loving words we give others or do we wrap ourselves into scratchy wool coats and tell ourselves it’s for our own good?
Self-compassion is not only helpful, it is healthy, it allows us our minds to comfortable roam and seek out what is truly best for us. Deciphering this world is hard enough- today, wrap yourself in some velvet and proceed.