In my work in the area of mental health, especially as a counsellor, I have been struck by the importance of the relationship with ourselves.
Much of our preoccupation surrounds our relationships with others but the relationship with the self plays a very big role in those other relationships.
For instance, if I am self-compassionate (the subject of my new book, Kindfulness) I will see impressing others as a preference rather than a necessity. It would be nice if other people were impressed by what I do but if they’re not, I will still have my own friendship so it won’t be the end of the world.
Or self-compassion might lead me to say, well, I deserve better than the treatment that is being dished out to me by this person so it’s time to demand a change in the relationship or to end it.
People who are mistreated by others in long term relationships often have a belief that they deserve no better. This can happen either because they had this belief drummed into them as children or because their partner has steadily chipped away at their self-confidence.
Self-compassion can protect against such toxic beliefs so that the person sees themselves as deserving compassion and decent treatment. It can be difficult, though, to make the journey from self-shame to self-compassion so the person affected needs to take it slowly – for instance starting off by finding small things about themselves that they can like.
A narcissist would be happy to spend the day looking into the mirror, lost in admiration. A person who feels shame might never look into it – might not even have a mirror in the home.
What’s important, in my view, is to be able to look at the mirror, see a normal, good-enough human being, and move on. Now that’s a worthy objective.
Kindfulness – be a true friend to yourself with mindful self-compassion, is published by Yellow Kite Books on 28th June 2018