One of the very difficult things for many of us is to hold ourselves in a consistent state of positive self-regard.
We are so quick to beat ourselves up – I’m not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, attractive enough, young enough, old enough, healthy enough, witty enough, patient enough, aggressive enough, calm enough, …
But we rarely get to that state of enough.
When things don’t go the way we’d like them to – particularly when we believe we are at least partially responsible for the outcome – we punish ourselves for our “insufficiency”.
Each such instance reinforces that limiting belief.
And we often aren’t aware of just how harsh our self-judgments truly are.
Until we see them in contrast to our compassion.
Clinical psychologist and author Paul Hewitt leads his patients who are struggling with their self-regard through a very insightful thought experiment. Hewitt begins with this: “Imagine your four-year-old self and remember how much pain you were in – how hard it was trying to fit in, how hard you wanted to feel better, to feel loved.”
At this point most patients can recall the challenges they experienced when they were younger and craved the love and attention of people around them.
Then Hewitt asks them this: “If you could leave my office right now and run into your four-year-old self – knowing how much pain that four-year-old was in – what would you do?”
Most people say they’d put their arms around the young child and tell them they are great just the way they are. That everything is going to be OK. That there is no need for worry or self-doubt.
Then Hewitt reminds his patients that they can extend that same gentle compassion to their current self.
That inner battle within ourselves rages, mostly unconscious. We can see the pain that others are in – including our younger self – and channel love and compassion toward them. But we exclude our “existing” self.
And thus we contend with negative self-regard.
Until we finally get to a point and say, “Enough!”
Everyone in this world is struggling in their own way, on their own path. Some paths may look easier or more peaceful to us, but to everyone walking their path, it is a challenge.
When we can see our struggle in the same light as the four-year-old self and the forty-year-old neighbor, then we can gently extend true empathy inward. Instead of beating ourselves up, we smile kindly at our self-judgment and quietly remind ourselves, “I am great just the way I am. Everything is going to be OK. There is no need for worry or self-doubt.”
Join me in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of negative self-regard and how we can choose a different mindset that leads to much greater peace. I look forward to seeing you then.