Be Kind to Yourself
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | April 2017 (edited June 10, 2021)
Before change is possible, we must be kind to ourselves. Change requires a supportive environment
What was that? Another missed opportunity! We miss opportunities by failing to recognize them. Our ship comes in but sails out to sea while we are still packing our bags. An old-street-worn sergeant routinely reminded, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Doing the right things, at the right times to obtain long-term intentions is complex. Sadly, many live lives that they regret, constantly missing opportunities and then ascribing the injustice to their personals insufficiencies. They let lose a gruesome inner ogre that constantly berates and harshly judges, hoping the meanness will motivate self improvement—not likely.
Motivation for Change
Motivation is complex. Our feelings, thoughts and behaviors are pushed and pulled by many forces. These forces motivate action—or inaction. Some forces are obvious, while others obscure. Without careful examination, unchallenged, unrecognized compulsions limit opportunities and constrain freedoms.
"A person's intrinsic enjoyment of an activity provides sufficient justification for their behavior."
Richard A. Griggs
Mindful exploration of self exposes motivations and habitual reactions. Protective thoughts adopted in childhood lose effectiveness in adulthood—but we still employ them. Unseen these adaptations sneak into our lives, motivate harmful action (or thoughts) and then fail to inspire change.
When a child depends on unpredictable people, they exist in a frightening world. Life is scary. In order psychologically survive, the child employs thought mechanisms to provide a measured sense of control. As adults, effective action serves us better than distorting thoughts. We have greater power to create security by evaluating multiple options.
Constructive action begins with an inner confidence to curiously explore options, experimenting, reflecting and committing. We can't courageously work through the uncertainty if we continually listen to the inner demons screaming, "You can't do this!"
"Unseen these adaptations sneak into our lives, motivate harmful action (or thoughts) and then fail to inspire change."
Many childhood defenses fail to serve this productive purpose—and they limit growth. Protective adaptations originally made life livable; but now confine. We need greater self-awareness softened with self-compassion.
Awareness exposes faults; compassion accepts them. Human imperfection is acceptable. With gentle compassion, recognizing faults isn’t as threatening. Without compassion the fear of not being good enough immobilizes productive action. Compassion teaches us that we are good enough, even with our faults.
The bottom line is you need to be kind to yourself. We all need self directed kindness. Our self kindness establishes a secure environment for curious strivings into the unknown.
"Pay attention to those things that you’re saying to yourself — especially when you’re having a hard time or you feel like you’ve made a mistake. Take a minute and actively think about how you would talk to a friend in the same situation."
The compulsion to be perfect isn’t a personal choice—it has deep causes. But facing and managing the immobilizing fear is essential for progress. We must challenge the fearful thoughts that push success beyond our reach.
Fear isn’t an illness; it is a product of the human mind. We can find comfort through just being nice to ourselves, knowing we will be challenged; but after an initial stumble, we courageously stand back up, dust off our knees and move forward.
Over time, self-confidence grows from repeatedly and successfully addressing imperfections—although the blemishes remain. The welcoming of our human imperfection initiates an exciting journey into self-discovery where greater freedoms and opportunities reside. We grow because our self-focused positive regard (being nice to ourselves) creates security that, perhaps, we missed in our broken childhoods.
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