self-compassion!

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “you can’t love others until you love yourself”.

What I have found to be true in looking back, is that I could never accept love from others until I loved myself. There was nothing anyone could do to make me believe that they loved me.  And people did a lot of things to try to convince me. They gave me their time, words, gifts, their best efforts at convincing me that I was loved. I did not believe any of it. I had impossibly high expectations of people. Expectations that could never be met.

I wanted people to fly to the moon and write it in the stars that they loved me. Even if they had done that, I would find some reason why it wasn’t enough. Why what they did actually proved they did not love me. They used the wrong stars, they took too long, they made eye contact with my enemy after they did it. Whatever. I truly believed for many years that I was unloved by everyone who claimed they loved me. I thought they were lying. What was actually the case was that I believed I was unloveable. Because how could anyone love me? “They claim they love me because they don’t really know me,” I thought.

As my quest for self-love began, I noticed that it became easier for me to accept love from others. It’s hard to pin point the day or the exact action that brought about this change. I was doing a few things daily that, over time, changed the way I thought about myself.

First, I started a “happy jar”. At the end of everyday, I write one happy thing that happened that day. things like, “I shared honestly at an NA meeting and felt better afterwards,” or “I took a nap with my kitten,” or “I breathed oxygen.” Looking at the positive in each day helped me have a more positive outlook, and I think it helped me grow towards loving myself.

Also, I started every day by looking in the mirror and saying “I love you” out loud to myself. At first it seemed silly, but it changed the way I thought about myself. Now, the first thing I think when I look in a mirror is not that my skin isn’t clear enough, or I’m not thin enough, or I’m just not enough. Instead, when I look in a mirror the first thing I think is, “I love you.” That’s really powerful and has changed my life.

Some days I forgot to say “I love you” to myself in the morning, so I put a note by my mirror to remind me. This gave me the idea to put notes all over my apartment. I wrote notes to myself and put one by my bed, by my desk, on my fridge, and by my door. For example, the one my by desk says “no matter what gets done, and what is left undone, you are enough.” The one by my bed says “yes, you are imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that you are also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” both of those are Brene Brown quotes. She’s amazing. Now, I write myself notes all the time. The night before a big exam, I’ll leave myself a note to read in the morning encouraging my best effort instead of perfection. I love getting love notes, and I don’t need to wait for one from someone else in order to feel validated and loved.

I started taking myself on dates. I took myself out to dinner, I went on walks, I went to see live music, anything I might have done with a boyfriend in the past. The most memorable date I went on with myself was to see Nick Offerman do stand-up comedy. I was nervous to go to an event like that by myself. I spent about 15 minutes in the bathroom because I got there so early and had no one to talk to. Eventually, I faced my anxiety and sat in the lobby until the doors opened. I didn’t play games on my phone, I just sat and patiently waited. I filled that time with self-loving thoughts instead of self-critical ones.

Which brings me to my next activity. I call it treating myself. It can be any activity that you like doing just for you. An activity that feels like a luxury. For example, mine is that I get my nails done. I used to get my nails done every week. Now I get them done less often. While I get my nails done, I tell myself only self-loving things. I spend about an hour having a totally loving inner-dialogue. It’s really difficult to do this for an hour. I tell myself I’m beautiful and a little voice will chime in that says, “that’s not true,” I tell myself I am smart and worthy of love and a little voice will say, “here’s an situation that explains why you’re wrong.” I try not to judge those thoughts. I spent my whole life thinking negatively about myself, it’s okay that the habit is still there. Instead, I just say to myself, “hey, you don’t have to think that way anymore, it’s okay to believe you’re beautiful and smart and worthy of love.”

After a few days, I noticed a slight change. After about three months, my life changed. When I was walking to class or taking an exam or really anywhere any time, I noticed that my thoughts were less-critical. Most importantly, I noticed that when someone complimented me, my first thought was, “that’s true” instead of “wow that person doesn’t know me at all.” This enabled me to feel closer to others than I ever had. I gave myself permission to be myself and accept love from others. One of my notes to myself says, “a lot of people love you, and they aren’t wrong.”

Now, I really need to emphasize that I am not perfect at this. For example, sometimes I embarrass myself by giving people more information about my life than they asked for. These situations are where I get the most self-critical. I have a deep desire to be known by others. That is a wonderful thing. It comes out in ways that are less-wonderful. If someone is talking about what type of razor they should shave with, I might say something like “yeah, I’ve had some really bad experiences with razors.” Not the time or the place, Sim. In these situations, I say really mean things to myself. Because I just made people uncomfortable and I told them about a disturbing time in my life with no explanation or context. I notice myself saying things like, “wow, you are an idiot,” or “what kind of person does that? These people are never going to talk to you again.” I try to combat these thoughts with kind ones, but it can be really difficult.

Another example is when someone is confronting me for something I did wrong. A few weeks ago, I was apologizing profusely and I nearly apologized for being alive. I almost said it out loud, “I am so sorry that I exist, I should never have been born.” A completely inappropriate comment for the situation. But in that moment, I felt that who I was as a human being was wrong, instead of just my performance being a bit lower than what was expected of me. I clearly have more compassion work to do.

This is something I work on in some form everyday. Mostly I do this because it brings me a lot of joy and love, and it allows me to accept joy and love from others.

 

no more cigarettes #4

Two weeks, no cigarettes. a miracle. That’s what that is. I definitely want cigarettes less, but I still want them.

The other day I was having coffee with a friend and I know that sometimes she smokes the same kind of cigarettes I smoke. All day I was thinking about how I was going to smoke one of her cigarettes and not tell anyone about it, or act like it was no big deal and just have “one cigarette.” It turns out she did not have any with her. Thank goodness. I really want to stay quit.

My boyfriend quit cigarettes 5 days ago and he is being much cooler about his quitting process than I am. It’s really nice to have him by my side as we quit together. We are each other’s cheerleaders and support team. Yesterday I found a half-smoked cigarette in my car that I didn’t see when I cleaned it out. I texted a picture of it to Jonny and he told me to throw it out. It took me about 10 minutes to make the decision. Thankfully I threw it away.

I am currently working through some trauma that step 4 reminded me I need to work through. Something happened to me six years ago and the wound has been re-opened. Roughly 100 times each day, I tell myself that going through this trauma again means that I absolutely should smoke a cigarette.

“one hour at a time,” I tell myself.

no more cigarettes #3

I’ve heard that by day three, the worst is over. I hope that’s true. Day four has just begun and I’m certainly feeling less irritable and annoyed by everything. So far.

I keep thinking about my future students, and how I don’t want to smell like cigarettes when I walk into class in the morning. And I don’t want to snap at my 4th period because I would rather have a cigarette than teach them.

Of course, during the moments that I want a cigarette, I forget all of this. And I forget the shame, and I forget how much it hurt to breathe at the end of the day. Thank goodness for my e-cig. At least when quitting smoking I have something to help my brain not go insane. When I quit drugs, I didn’t have pretend drugs to ingest.

I’ve been drinking a lot of tea, because I am dependent on caffeine but coffee makes me want a cigarette more than anything. Caffeinated tea is not something to mess around with. The other day I had four cups of tea and I thought I was going crazy by the end of it. No anxiety attack though, which was a relief because I’ve been having a lot of those lately.

I think I’ve been having anxiety attacks because I am trying to be more meditative, and my mind is saying, “no! chaos! freak out! everything is horrible!”

Yesterday I was 10 minutes late to class because I had an anxiety attack at a gas station on my way to school and my professor didn’t count me late . I didn’t even tell her about my anxiety attack, she just decided not to count me late. That was my “happy jar” entry last night. It’s all about the little things.

Anyway, according to my quitting smoking app, I have gone 90 hours without a cigarette and I have saved $32. That’s almost the amount of a sweater I really want.

sweaters2

anger

I thought anger was a secondary emotion. It is in my mind. But this , this , and this say anger is a primary emotion. So, I’m not sure. I’ve been working with anger a lot lately. How can I express anger?

Growing up, I saw anger expressed in screaming and throwing things. I am ashamed to feel anger. Most people would never describe me as an angry person. I work hard to keep up that image. There is a lot of anger within me. So, how can I process the emotion of anger? How can I set it free? When I hear the word “anger” I think of violence and threatening situations. Is it possible to express anger in a loving way?

In my work with anger recently, I express anger by identifying the feelings behind it and expressing those feelings. I see anger as resistance towards accepting either sadness or fear or reality. That’s why I see anger as a secondary emotion.

For me, anger is impulsive. It’s the first thing I feel when I experience something shameful or scary. But once I take a step back, other emotions come in.

For the most part, I am angry about things that happened in the past. Thinking about those things (or even mentioning them now) makes my hands shaky and my shoulders tense up. I often tell people that when I’m angry, I turn into a five-year-old again. I want to scream, cry, and throw things, but also I want to hide forever.

Something that has worked for me is meditation. I could write about how meditation has changed my life for a whole post. For now I’ll just say, meditation has changed my anger by diffusing it. When I am in that centered place, everything is okay because I don’t judge anything as “good” or “bad”. By meditating on a regular basis, I am able (in most settings) to feel that peace within me any time I want. It’s not just feeling peace, it’s releasing tension. It’s letting go of my ego and my desire to control. Of course, I am not perfect at this.

I just met with my sponsor and I told her that one of my biggest fears is that people will find out that I am not perfect at self-compassion or meditation. That’s a whole other post, too.

I am on the road to understanding and setting free the anger I have within me. I am on the road to allowing myself the freedom to be angry so that I can move past it with compassion and honesty.

 

 

no more cigarettes #2

I wish I didn’t think smoking cigarettes was cool.

I had my first cigarette when I was twelve-years-old and I never looked back. I always wanted to be a cigarette-smoker.

This morning was difficult because as soon as I woke up, I thought, “great, time for a cigarette,” and then I remembered that I can’t. A heartbreaking realization.

Yesterday I was thinking about sneaky ways I could smoke cigarettes and have no one find out. I thought, “I’ll just buy one pack and put it in my glove-box for emergencies, no one will never know.”

Last night I was nearly in tears thinking about all of the future road trips I want to take. The idea of not smoking cigarettes during a road trip is hard to get my head around. I feel exactly like I did almost three years ago, minus the feeling that I am going to die if I don’t do drugs. Everything else is very similar, though.

I have an identity as a smoker. When I see someone smoking, I know that I have something in common with them. I can see my future self talking to a smoker and saying, “oh yeah, you smoke cigarettes? I used to smoke AT LEAST four packs a day, I was pretty cool but I HAD to quit because I want to be a teacher” (I have never smoked four packs in one day).

I am in the “in-group” of smokers. Just like I was in the in-group of this drug and the in-group of that drug. All I want to do is fit in to a specific group so that I know I belong somewhere (thank goodness for Narcotics Anonymous). And now I’m puffing on my e-cig? How lame. I think people who smoke e-cigs are weird. And now I’m one of them. I always thought people who did not do drugs were weird. This reminds me of a story.

When I had less than 30 days clean, I was having a crisis. I thought people who did not do drugs were close-minded and boring. I walked into my addiction counselor’s office very upset as I explained to him my concerns. He said, “Simone, you are wearing a ‘PRIDE’ t-shirt, hippie rainbow pants, and meditation beads. You have a piercing on your face, and you brag about not having shaved your legs in months. If you went to the grocery store right now, I’m not sure anyone would think you are remotely boring” this always stuck with me. Also, this story always makes me miss my eyebrow piercing.

no more cigarettes #1

I have decided to document my journey in quitting cigarettes (for real this time) because maybe it will give me some accountability. On March 1st at 3:30, I smoked my last cigarette.

I decided to quit smoking because I preach a whole lot about self-compassion and self-love. However, how can I say that I love myself completely if I smoke a pack a day of cigarettes? For the past few months, I have felt shame every time I smoke a cigarette. Because I know better.

My dad’s friend died of lung cancer. Usually, death from lung cancer never affected my view of smoking because, “yeah, but it will never happen to me.” But what if it did happen to me? I would be embarrassed, and I would be really sad.

When I got clean, I was told not to quit, and I am happy that I didn’t quit. There were days that cigarettes kept me clean. I didn’t have any coping skills for intense emotions and cigarettes got me through some difficult times. However, now I do have coping skills for intense emotions.

You should know that I am using an e-cig with 16 mg of nicotine, so you can choose to discredit (or, not count) the time I have gone without cigarettes. However, when I was doing research about quitting smoking, I learned herehere  and here that my chances of being successful increase if I use “nicotine replacement therapy” (NRT). My hope is that every 30 days I will decrease the amount of nicotine in my e-cig by half.

So far, the experience is worse than I expected. I have the taste of cigarettes in my mouth constantly. I feel like I am in a hurry and I am very stressed out for no reason. I keep thinking to myself, “you deserve a cigarette.” This experience is very similar to quitting drugs. So, I am approaching it similarly. One hour at a time.

Today, I plan to deep clean my car and get rid of all my lighters. I have also decided to leave my wallet at home because I am a woman of impulse. I find that I really want people to be proud of me (I don’t think that’s a bad thing), and I really want people to feel bad for me (that’s kind of weird) because I’m suffering. Poor me.