When I am working with clients, there are two things I often want to help teach them more than anything. One of these things is acceptance, and the other is learning how to have a greater sense of self compassion. As human beings, we naturally think ahead. We plan, we dream, we envision what we want for ourselves and for our futures. We often have an idea of where we are going, or an idea of where we would eventually like to be. With social media, we are also so easily exposed to where others are and where they appear to be going.
It can be all too simple to compare and can be very painful when we feel that we are not ‘on track’ or seem to be on a detour for what we may have had planned for ourselves. Acceptance is such a simple idea in theory, but proves to be so much more difficult in practice. It can cut deep to lose what we have been longing and planning for. When we envision something and it does not happen- whether that be a job promotion not working out, a relationship that ends, or that apartment we did not get, there is grief involved. Practicing acceptance can be the powerful tool that allows us to loosen the grip on whatever plan we may have, and more deeply lean into and enjoy our detour.
It is important that on this journey to acceptance, we allow space for its partner- self compassion. It is hard to fully accept whatever it is we are trying to without having the kindness, patience and compassion for the fact that things may not have happened or be happening how we may want them. It is okay to be sad, to be angry, to be anxious, to mourn, and in order to allow these feelings in without judgement, we must allow room for self compassion.
So- where to start and what does self compassion even mean? Self compassion starts with the way we talk to ourselves. It is showing the love we would give to a close friend or family member to ourself. Language is so important, and we can be so grossly unaware of how harsh, critical, and mean we can be in the way we speak to ourselves. In sessions, when I hear clients being harsh with their language towards themselves, I often will pause and say “ouch! can we try that again?” So much healing can come from learning to make space for our mistakes, the things that did not happen the way we hoped and the feelings we inevitably feel because of that. Detours can be just as beautiful as the plan we had in mind, if we make the space to let them.