I find myself wondering on this year’s Kind Cumbria Day, how I can be so unkind to myself? When it comes to others I am adept at understanding and empathy – seeing things from their point of view and being supportive. But when it comes to myself I am downright mean, often cruel and never supportive.
I judge myself harshly in all areas, but none more so than in my parenting of my toddler. She is particularly tricky at the moment – quick to anger and distress, without any real provocation. As someone with a very shaky sense of themselves, I struggle in the face of her emotional onslaught. I cannot be the stable, constant anchor she needs me to be, as she navigates the uncertain waters of her embryonic emotions.
This weekend I swore at her then cried. She got me her teddy and tickled me to make me feel better. If a friend had told me this story I would be filled with encouragement and soothing as well as sympathy for both the friend and their child – telling them their behaviour was understandable and unlikely to have done any real or lasting damage to their child.
But this is not how I treat myself. I blame myself for the damage I am causing my child. I chastise myself for not controlling my emotions, I cannot forgive myself for my inadequacies. And in doing so I perpetuate the emotional turmoil inside me.
For me I need the inverse of the “do unto others” maxim. For me, I must try to “do unto myself as I would do unto others”. I find it uncomfortable to think of myself in a positive way – it feels dangerous and slippery, likely to lead to greater harm. I won’t go into the reasons for this, but I wonder if others struggle as well with tolerating positive thoughts about themselves.
So whilst it is distressing to be mean to myself, self-kindness can feel just as distressing. I am trying to build my tolerance, seeing myself in others helps me generate positive emotions I can gradually train inwards. Partly that is why peer support is good for me – I can be kind to others much more easily, and hopefully some of that kindness is reflected that.