“Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.”
― Kristin Neff
One of my favorite books is Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff.
About a year and a half ago, I took her test to see how self-compassionate I was — and the results were not good. But before I show you the results, I want to give you an idea of where I was in life.
Two months before taking the test, I made a choice to leave my job. It was a job I loathed and hated with every fiber of my being but it provided a steady paycheck, important benefits, and allowed me to keep a roof over my head and take care of my kids. I wasn’t making a ton of money, but I wasn’t poor either. It provided security. But it wasn’t worth the life I was living.
Around the same time I left my job, I was dealing with a lot of other issues I’d harbored for years. A lot of these issues had to do with the job I left, too.
I was stressed.
I had no clue what I would do or even what I wanted to do. This was true for my career and my life in general. It was a crossroads for me. I feared for my future and my kids future. I was 45 and lost.
But I decided I wanted to find something.
I wanted to find what life was about and what it meant to me. I wanted to find out what was really important. Because I thought I knew. But once something changes like choosing to leave the security of a job, you question everything. You find out you really know nothing, and what you thought was important, really isn’t.
So, on this quest to find what I was looking for, I started with myself. Because I figured out what I needed to find was myself.
I’ve always been hard on myself. For everything. Little mistakes, big mistakes, my appearance, it didn’t matter. I was an asshole to myself. And I allowed that asshole in me to take control of every other aspect of my being. It ruled over me and I bowed down to it like a peasant. The negative self-talk so prevalent in many of us was as familiar as your favorite song.
It was easier to be nice to others than it was to myself. Because you aren’t nice to people you hate.
So I decided I need to change.
The test results were bad. I knew I had issues with self-compassion but I didn’t expect my scores to be so low. In fact, you can’t get much lower than what I scored.
If you look at the results, you will see my overall score was 1.29 with 3 being the average overall self-compassion score. I scored the worst possible on self-kindness, self-judgment, common humanity, and isolation. For over-identification, I was 0.5 points from the worst score.
To say I was low in self-compassion would be an understatement. I had none.
And I wanted to change that.
So I worked on myself. I worked on my thoughts and my negative self-talk. I became more aware of how I treated myself.
I took better care of my physical, emotional, and mental health. I stopped isolating so much and gave up all the negativity I harbored and engaged in.
I gave myself a break. For my mistakes and my appearance. For what I thought were my shortcomings and failures. For everything I believed was wrong about me.
I tried to learn I’m not as bad as I think I am.
So I took the test again. Today.
Let me say this before you look at the results — they aren’t Earth-shattering. I didn’t go from one extreme to the other with my scores. That’s not how it works.
Self-compassion is not turned around or learned over one year when you’ve been beating yourself up for the previous 45 years.
But it is a step in the right direction. Because even though my scores are still considered low, there is movement. I guess you could say I had nowhere else to go but up because I didn’t. I couldn’t go any lower with my test scores.
However, it was a test score, not a life score. I could have gone substantially lower in real life. Even though I was horrible to myself, there was still room for more.
So when I see my test results now, I’m happy. I still have work to do, but now I know what self-compassion looks like. I know what it takes to improve. And I know I can do it now.
My second test shows an overall improvement from 1.29 to 2.28. And every other score improved as well. I’m still low overall, but I’m getting there.
In a year from now, those scores will be better. The next year too. Because I’ve finally started learning about myself and what it takes to be compassionate. To forgive and go easy on myself. And that feeling transfers to others.
Because when you stop taking yourself so seriously, you learn to laugh at yourself and your mistakes. And learn it’s not the end of the world if we mess up. Or have a drastic life change.
When you stop hurting yourself, you learn how to stop hurting others.
When you learn to deal with your own pain, it becomes easier to understand others’ pain. And have compassion for them.
When you stop talking to yourself in the negative all the time, you find there is a voice inside which is more powerful.
When you learn how to understand yourself, you learn how to understand others.
And when you stop hating yourself and learn you are worth it, you begin to have self-compassion.
I’m worth it. So are you.
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