Polyamory Success Skills #4: Self-Compassion
I mentioned this very briefly in my previous blog: Polyamory Success Skills #2: Interdependence.
“Your blame extends to yourself, your compassion should, too.”
Ever since then I felt that I didn’t give that concept the attention it really deserves. I thought about going back and editing that blog to expand on what it means and how to do it, but this topic is so important it really deserves its own blog post.
Without Self-Compassion, polyamory is a long, dark path of criticism and self-doubt. Don’t get me wrong, polyamory is still possible without Self-Compassion, it’s just that the engine that drives things forward causes an environment of self-shame and rejection of certain parts of yourself.
I’ve heard of this referred to as “dualistic,” which means dividing a single entity into two parts. More specifically, here we’re dividing the self into the desirable and undesirable parts. The desirable parts are accepted, wanted, loved, and reinforced, whereas the undesirable parts are shunned, outcast, rejected, and shamed.
What I’m writing about is more “non-dualistic,” meaning accepting everything as part of the whole, complete entity. I’ve also heard this referred to as “holistic” and “shadow work” in other spiritual terms.
What I mean by “Self-Compassion” is:
- fully understanding and accepting yourself just as you are, with no criticism, shame, or desire to fix or change things.
Its opposite is self-criticism or self-shame.
What does Self-Compassion look like?
Let’s start this by first discussing what it doesn’t look like. For this part, I’m going to share how my journey into self-development began. My quest for self-development (or a more accurate term for how it started is “self-improvement” because the goal was to improve the bad parts of me to make them better) was driven by self-hatred, self-criticism, and the idea that there’s something wrong with me that I needed to fix.
Back in 2011 I signed the divorce papers that ended my 7-year marriage. It was the first time in my life that I’d seriously taken a look at myself and how I got to where I am.
(If you want to know more about my divorce, go to my blog here: The Story of My Divorce)
In particular I’m going to point to this part of that blog:
“I made a list of who I thought I was, then crossed out the characteristics I didn’t like and wrote in what I wanted to replace them with. ‘I’m insecure, but I don’t like that, so I’m going to replace it with being confident.’”
While this strategy was effective at changing my actions so that I was doing, this mindset is centered on the idea that there was something wrong with me that I needed to fix. The results of this mindset were:
- Harsh self-criticism, and in turn harsh criticism of other people;
- A kind of arrogant pride, and an inability to understand anyone who takes a different path from me.
What Self-Compassion looks like is accepting who you are and how you feel, even the parts you don’t like. I come across clients who ask me “how to not feel jealous”, or “how do I just be happy all the time?” I hope at this point you can see the dualistic nature of these concerns.
The methods and mechanisms each person uses to get there are personal. Try different visualizations or processes, and see what works best for you. I’ll share what works for me. I definitely invite you to try it and see if it works for you, too! If it doesn’t, don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you did it wrong, it just means you need to find another way. Just try something else. A lot of self-development is trial-and-error, and a lot of my coaching is around having clients be ok with uncertainty, the unknown, and taking risks.
I have a piece of paper taped to my wall with some phrases, like reminders. They represent a certain epiphany I had back in 2016, and it’s been potent and powerful ever since.
We’re looking at the first phrase: “Love the Unlovable Part”. For the second phrase, you can reflect on it on your own and see what you come up with.
One night I had a dream. There was a young child, the 4-year-old version of me. I knew it was myself: it was the child part of me that feels entirely unlovable. He was crying. I became angry at him and told him to shut up. I didn’t have time for it, there was so much I needed to accomplish. I’m too awesome for crying. The crying became wailing. I got even more angry and my speaking devolved into yelling. When that didn’t work and only functioned to make things worse, I thought about hitting or beating him to make him stop.
And then I caught myself. I was shocked at myself, at the lengths I was willing to go to, to silence this part of myself that is just crying out for acceptance. It was at this point that I woke up from the dream, and I began to process it.
I experienced how awful I was willing to be to ignore that I even had this part of myself, like it was something to be ashamed of. On top of that, being hateful or rejecting that part of me made it stronger: not loving the child that feels unlovable only goes to prove its point. The way to get it to calm down is to accept and love it. Listen to it. Change your actions accordingly so that it feels heard, understood, and valued.
(As a political side note, it’s like meeting protests about police brutality with more police brutality. It will only function to prove the protestors’ point and strengthen the protests.)
Of course, this is only one of the ways I reach self-compassion. There are other ways, too, and I encourage you to find your own! It’s definitely a practice, and as you practice you’ll get better at it, and you’ll find more methods.
What did this bring up for you? Do you already have methods for you to reach self-compassion? If this is new to you, what methods do you see that you would like to try?
Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com
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