What if we treated ourselves the way we treat others? The Golden Rule...in reverse!

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We’re all familiar with the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But what if we flipped this? What if we treated ourselves the way we treat others?

I recently missed a big deadline. Actually, that’s an understatement. I missed a deadline for a very important task I didn’t even know was assigned to me. It was bad.

The moment I realized my mistake, my brain was flooded with accusations and defeating commentary… “How could I be so stupid?” “Why would my superiors want me in this program if I can’t even meet a simple deadline?” “What kind of person completely overlooks such a large task?”

Needless to say, I was being very unkind to myself.  The interesting thing is, if my partner  came to me with this exact problem in their own life, I would immediately go into comforting and supportive mode. I’d start by gently listening, I’d remind them that their intelligence and worth do not lie in this one mistake. I’d emphasize their humanness- that mistakes are part of living, and remind them that we must forgive ourselves. I’d listen, encourage, and help in whatever way needed. I can’t think of an instance when I would even consider berating the most important person in my life, yet reprimanding myself for the same mistake was the very first thing I did!

This is such a strange reality. When we see someone we love in need, our instincts to comfort and support appear. But when we find ourselves in need, those kind instincts seem to fade away, only to be replaced by a lack of understanding.  We also know that when we are hurting inside and falling deep into the shame-rabbit-hole, we become unapproachable by others and difficult to connect with. We may even push our partners away in a manner that is hurtful and likely confusing to them, which is the exact opposite of what our heart needs and desires. 

What I think we all need is a little more self-compassion- a type of kindness toward the self that is accompanied by tenderness and generosity. Instead of immediately judging ourselves for shortcomings and failures, we can choose to embrace ourselves with supportive arms and a forgiving heart

What a powerful way to live. To break free from sitting in our regret and disappointment by choosing to be gracious. How much more quickly could we move on from difficult situations if we decided to leave behind the cycle of shame that we put ourselves through? Our relationships would be much more fulfilling when we can turn to our partner and share our fears and disappointments in a way that allows them to come close.

So here’s my resolution for my life: to actively work toward changing my thinking when I’m upset with myself. I resolve to ask the question, “Would I say this to a friend in the same situation?” I want to evaluate if my response really reflects the gravity of the situation, because usually my mistakes or shortcomings are not as devastating as they seem at first. I won’t disregard my feelings about the situation, because we know listening to our own emotions is extremely important, but I’ll evaluate these feelings through an empathetic lens. When I’m displeased or embarrassed with myself, I’ll say, “that was hard. But I’m more than this mistake and I’ll bounce back from it. I always do.”

This shift to being kind toward ourselves can be difficult and uncomfortable, and we know that.  Recognizing your desire for more self-compassion is a big deal! Taking the step towards figuring out how to do it takes a lot of courage.  Our individual therapists have all experienced this journey themselves and really enjoy helping others find their self compassion too.  Couples counseling is a wonderful way to learn about each other’s slippery spots that can lead to those internal shame-rabbit-holes and how you can best support each other around them. 

 

Laura Cross