You Deserve a Break Today
Last updated: May 2018
It has been my experience that humans tend to be harder on themselves than others, to the point that we often become so enveloped in our negativity, we are paralyzed in our lives.
It is important when managing a chronic, painful, chaotic disease like Rheumatoid Arthritis that we learn to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion means being able to see yourself in a positive light versus resorting to self-recrimination.
When I was first diagnosed with RA, I spent far too many hours, days, weeks and months trying to figure out what I did to trigger this disease. I assumed that I had to be responsible for this hideous disease. It took years for me to develop the self-compassion that I needed to understand that I was not only not responsible but that carrying that guilt and self-loathing was likely preventing me from successfully managing the disease.
Self-compassion is the same as having compassion for others.
That instinct to help someone who is having difficulty in their lives, feeling their suffering (compassion literally means “suffering with) and responding with a caring heart and mind. It means offering that person understanding and kindness versus harsh judgement. So self-compassion means acting exactly the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, make a mistake or fail in some way. Instead of mercilessly judging yourself or spending time self-criticizing, allow yourself to feel that same compassion, kindness and understanding you extend to others.
Self-compassion is the opposite of being self-judgmental.
While it is necessary to acknowledge areas for improvement, dealing with them from a place of kindness will be a great deal more effective than harshly judging yourself.
Without self-compassion we tend to behave in line with the negative things we believe about ourselves. This blocks positive change and becomes self-fulfilling. We give up and take on shame and guilt, stifling motivation and goals. Instead, understand that one need not be perfect. Striving for unrealistic goals only sets the stage for stress and anxiety. We also need to step away from the blame game. As I said, I soaked up blame for years about how I got RA. When I realized how self-defeating that was, I was able to move on with a renewed sense of self-confidence.
Self-compassion also recognizes that we are not alone in our struggles.
There were times when I felt isolated and alone in my pain. By learning to be self-compassionate I came to understand that I was one of many who suffer from RA. All humans suffer somewhere along their journey through life and knowing that I am a part of that humanity was eye opening.
It is important to understand that self-compassion does not mean self-pity. When you are being self-compassionate you are not wrapping yourself up in the isolating emotion of self-pity but rather understanding that you are part of a larger world and therefore deserve the same respect and compassion you would extend to others. In fact, self-compassion leads to making clear and positive decisions. It also does not mean over-indulging your appetites to feel better about yourself. That is self-defeating and serves no one.
Understanding the global reach of RA and how it impacts millions of people can be both daunting and liberating all at the same time. Using the tool of self-compassion brings it into sharper focus as it relates to you but with the understanding that you are not alone in your journey. I found that to be a profound and helpful discovery. I stopped beating myself up over the why’s and became more focused on the how to. How to move forward, with forgiveness and kindness towards myself. How to manage RA. How to live a life of joy and happiness. What a wonderful tool self –compassion can be for all of us!
Did you know rheumatologist Dr. Donica Baker is answering community questions?
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