I am a big believer in signs, that the universe will send hints and nudges to get you going in the right direction. The tricky part is to be aware, because if you’re not paying attention those subtle signs become big ole smacks on the head. After many of those “looking back, I can’t believe I didn’t see that coming” moments, I am working at being more receptive to the earlier (and less painful/embarrassing) clues.
In the past couple of weeks I have been in several spirited conversations, seen many posts on social media, and have had videos shared by friends all basically centered around the idea of self compassion. All of this as I have been ruminating on a post about how vicious our own self critic can be. Seems like a sign to me ~ time to get the proverbial pen in motion before that rolling pin/cast iron pan comes out of nowhere!
Now, I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience, and I won’t even pretend to put on an “expert” cap on the subject because I realize that everyone has their own story. Quite frankly, I’m still a work in progress so even my own “expertise” on myself is ever evolving. But, I can share with you some of what I have recently awakened to…
I am not, nor have I ever been, a particularly religious person. I do, however, consider myself to be spiritual. As a child I felt as if God was a friend and protector, someone I chatted with incessantly. I grew up Catholic and felt rather stymied by the rigidity of the rules involved in his communication. I, being of the perpetually right category (writing this I now see why my mother just smirks when I complain about the same attitude among my children…), knew my way was better, but played along to please the adults.
That was until I went to confession and admitted to being molested. And the priest looked at me in horror, stood up, and walked out. Not a single word. No “Our Fathers”, no “Hail Marys”, no redemption from impending, everlasting hell whatsoever.
The soundtrack in my young mind was already a bully – “How could you be so stupid?”, “They will never love you if they find out”, “Your silence is the only thing to save the family”. It only got worse now that I wasn’t even worth forgiveness. And as any unchecked bully does, as it grew from elementary though middle and into high school it’s attacks only became more vicious. I walked a razors edge of an eating disorder, attempted suicide at 14, turned to cutting myself to be able to deal with a pain that at least could be tended to.
Part of the self healing process for me has involved counseling, which I have found very helpful. Part of that has been dealing with my self esteem issues and addressing my stern inner critic. She had been in control for a long time and wasn’t about to go quietly, so that was tough. Another approach was to treat the abused inner child, that 7 year old little girl who lost her innocence, as if she were one of my own. Give her the compassionate care I would offer to a lost child or one of my “borrowed kids”. My Mama Bear tendencies could work with that, and I made a lot of progress in self forgiveness. Not so much with the adult version of myself.
If I had ever overheard the kinds of things that I have said to myself in the mirror being said by anyone else to my friends, my children, my siblings… I would go apes%!t on them, every single protective instinct raised, rushing to wrap them in my arms and smother them in reassurances. Anyone privy to that inner critic would have me packing my bags and out the door in moments. And that, it seems, is a trend that is all too familiar to those I know.
Sometimes, though, you have to wait for all the big and little pieces to come together before you can make that connection for yourself.
Through the discussions this week I realized that through everything that happened, I wasn’t even mad at God for denying forgiveness, because I had already deemed myself unforgivable. And through all the trials that then followed – bullying, abuse, rape, PTSD, forced relocation – I didn’t lose faith in God, what I had lost faith in was myself. And THAT is what allowed that inner critic to flourish, to feed off of the negativity of others and believe so easily in their poor judgments of me. I choose to believe (a little rose colored glasses? I’m looking at it as silver lining mining with a tilt) that she showed up originally as a survival tactic, just like my PTSD. So, there has to be a way to tame her into being something productive for my long term well being. Probably should start by naming her something other that the Big B, huh?
I have come a LONG way, and I have benefited from therapists, counselors, coaches, dedicated friends and loved ones as I continue this journey. This Self Compassion thing is new to me, but that candle lit bath when I need a bit of time to gather my thoughts, that pat on the back when I get a little touchy instead of a full out meltdown, an ice cream to celebrate while telling the critic to bug off about blowing “wrestling weight”, that walk just to go find flowers as a reward for making it through a tough day… These are the new approaches I am going to try to make friends with that critic.
Now to work on a better name for B…