Another great post by Elizabeth Gilbert. This time about self care, self compassion and self love. (I so wish I could write like her!).
Be gentle with yourself today, take the time to stop and smell the roses. Often we spend our whole lives pushing ourselves and stressing ourselves. I tried to ‘push’ myself to heal and figured out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that. It takes all the time it needs.
I am now kind and gentle on myself and take my life one day at a time. I ‘go with the flow’.. and do what I need for myself on any given day whether it’s a warm bath, a walk, a lay down in the sun.. I also do what I love and what feeds my soul every day. And from this I find I am less stressed and more available, kind and compassionate to others.
Slow down today and be kind and compassionate to yourself.
Love & baby steps.
Dear Ones –
A life has been entrusted to you. That life is your own. Please treat it with tenderness.
Whether you think that your life was given to you by God, or whether you think that your life was given to you by random accident, it doesn’t really matter. One way or another, the end result is the same: you are here now, and you have been given stewardship over one fragile human existence.
I think we forget this sometimes — that we have been entrusted with a life to protect, and that this life is our own…and that we should be gentle and respectful of valuable things that are entrusted into our care.
When we forget that truth, we treat ourselves horribly
You know what I mean, right? It not just me who does this…it’s all of us.
We are simply terrible to ourselves sometimes. We say awful things about ourselves. We punish our bodies. We put ourselves into dreadful circumstances, and then refuse to leave. We inflict miseries upon ourselves that we would never inflict on another person or animal. We allow ourselves to be abused, or sometimes we practice ritualistic self-abuse. We force ourselves to work until we almost collapse from exhaustion. We deny ourselves sleep and care and healthy food and sunlight. We sabotage our good opportunities, and keep returning to our most harmful behaviors and addictions. We refuse ourselves pleasures, believing that we are unworthy of peace or contentment. We surround ourselves with things and people that are unhealthy and demeaning. We never forgive ourselves for our frailties and fears and mistakes. We fill our minds with shameful words — about how disgraceful we are, how pathetic, how lazy, how stupid, how fat, how ugly, what a failure, what an idiot, what a loser, what a coward, and why can’t you get it together?
Here is my question: Why would you treat any life so terribly, if that life had been entrusted into your care?
Imagine this: Imagine adopting an animal from the rescue shelter, and then treating it as dreadfully as you sometimes treat yourself. Imagine calling that poor animal names. Imagine forcing it to stay in dangerous, toxic, or degrading situations. Imagine starving it, or cutting it, or making it binge eat and then forcing it to vomit. Imagine refusing to take it outside to see the sun. Denying it sleep or healthy exercise. Forcing it to consume substances that damage its health horribly. Putting it in the company of abusive people, who insult and degrade it. Working it half to death. Blaming it for everything. Yelling at it. Forgiving it for nothing. Denying it grace and love.
You would never. I know you. You would never do this to another life form. And yet you do it to yourself.
Sometimes, when I catch myself feeling unloveable or self-abusing, I try to imagine that I am an animal, adopted from the humane society, who has been placed into my own care. Maybe an animal that some bad things have happened to. Maybe an animal that is anxious and confused. Maybe an animal that has been wounded. Maybe an animal that is lost.
What does that animal need and deserve? Healthy food, a warm place to sleep, a safe place of shelter, tender affections, plenty of walks in the sunshine. Kindness. Tenderness. Patience.
Can you try to see yourself as an animal in need of rescue? And can you offer yourself that rescue? Can you try to see that you, too, are a simple mammal, born innocent, deserving of tenderness, needful of love, fearful of pain? Can you reach out to yourself with gentleness — as if you were that cat or dog who had been caged for far too long?
I know that you are all good people, trying hard to become better people. We all are good people over here. Maybe some bad shit has happened to you. And almost certainly, you have done some bad shit yourself (who hasn’t?) but you wouldn’t be visiting this page with the rest of us every day if you were not essentially a good person, trying hard to be a better person. I know what you long for: You want to bring deeper compassion to this troubled world. You want to be more kind, more generous, more trustworthy, wholehearted. You want to be nice and fair and warm to people.
And yet, still you believe you are entitled to abuse yourself — this one life form that is nearest to you, this only life that you can save with your own two hands.
If you say to me, “But it’s so much easier to love a defenseless animal than it is to love a human being,” then I will say to you: “Don’t forget that every human being was born a defenseless animal. Even you.”
If you say to me, “But it’s so much easier to love others than it is to love myself,” then I will say to you: “What do you think you are, if not one of us — if not one of the ‘others’? Why do you hold yourself separate from the rest of the world, as if you are an exceptional case? Is it because you think you are worse than the rest of us? Is it because you think you are better?”
We are all alike here. None of us are born worse or better than the others. In essence, we are all exactly the same. You are exactly like me, and I am exactly like you, and both of us are exactly like every stranger on the street. I am, as the Talking Heads once sang, “just an animal, looking for a home.” So are you. So is everyone. Nothing less, nothing more.
Can you become a safe home for yourself? Can you give your poor inner animal some loving care?
You want to practice goodness. Well, conveniently, there is somebody with you 24 hours a day, upon whom you can begin to practice your goodness and your kindness and your compassion — and that person is yourself.
Be kind to you, then. Put down the knife that you have been holding to your own throat. Stop beating up upon the poor animal that you are. Take the chains off. Open the door of the cage you’ve been forcing yourself to live in. Bring yourself out of the cold. Allow yourself the comfort of the warm blanket at the end of the couch. Protect yourself from those who injure you — yourself, most of all. The punishment ends today. Coax yourself forward, and say to the life that you have been entrusted with: “It’s OK. I’m here now. I will take care of you now. I’m sorry if I ever hurt you. I didn’t know that you were just a defenseless animal, deserving of care. Now I do know.”
You have to learn to speak to yourself with fundamental kindness, because SOMEBODY HAS TO. Even if you are lucky enough have people in your life who are kind to you, that is not quite enough. You must also practice self-kindness. Because other people’s love and sweetness is not enough to save the troubled and anxious animal who lives within you. Because nobody else (except you) can reach down into your heart as deep as it goes, and offer it the specific tenderness it most needs.
As the writer and editor Sahaj Kohli once wrote: “The fact that someone else loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of loving yourself.”
You can do this. Please believe me. You can take on this project — the project of learning how to love your poor, tired self. But you can only do it if you can learn see yourself as worthy of love — just like the rest of us. Like the poor, tired, born-innocent animal that you are.
And slowly — as it learns that it can trust you — the animal that you are will grow stronger, more confident, more loving. Then it will teach you how to truly love others, and how to be loved by others. Because you cannot offer wholehearted love to the world if you do not also practice it on yourself.
I believe this, more than anything. You must learn how to be kind to yourself. You can learn this — I am certain of it.
Because the guardians of the universe would not have put such a fragile and precious life in your hands, if they did not think that you could eventually be trusted to care for it with infinite tenderness.
Be good to you.