Once upon a time there was a slightly unwell young girl, who knew nothing of self-care or self-compassion.
She grew into a youngish, slightly more unwell, woman who thought resting and pacing was something you did on the bad days… After you crashed.
As a middle aged woman with hopes of one day being a wise, oldish, crone, she began to accept that she was never well.
She began to accept it was not her fault that pushing through seemed like her only choice. She couldn’t blame herself for not understanding that her whole future depended on having enough self-compassion to stop, rest and pace when possible. She also couldn’t blame herself for the times when stop, rest, pace was utterly impossible.
All she wants now is for others to consider self-compassion as a way to manage illness because she knows… Everyone deserves protection from further harm.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say in case it’s not clear, one of the main tools required to manage chronic illness is self-compassion. I know I say it in one form or another, on practically every page of this website, but it needs repeating, because unfortunately, it is incredibly complex and difficult to put into practice. This resource is about the times when it is possible but difficult to make a compassionate choices. Again, just a reminder, I’m not talking about all the immovable objects or labyrinth of responsibilities that get in the way of self care.
One little example of self-compassion I offer to myself so that this website is possible is that perfection is not the goal. You will undoubtedly find many mistakes in my content and I need to be okay with that. Being okay with imperfection is part of self-care and self-kindness. It’s also more illustrative…Every imperfection tells a story of what it is like to live with ME/CFS.
Duality of Self Compassion
Because we live in a society that rewards and reveres productivity and a “push through” mindset, we have to protect our health and well-being by applying a level of self-compassion that is kind and gentle yet courageous and fierce. To ease you into the duality of self-compassion I’m going to use a yin and yang approach.
The Yin represents your innate kind heartedness that can be turned inwards once you are able to validate your suffering. Embracing the Yin requires acknowledging how incredibly hard it is to live with a debilitating chronic illness. Acknowledging that you deserve self-care and do not need to earn it and that you deserve to be protected from things that harm you.
The Yang represents the protective strength you already possess and focussing that on yourself. Embracing the Yang requires acknowledging the courage you have already shown to survive and manage your condition. Acknowledging that you deserve to put your health first without needing to justify your self-care boundaries.
Even if you are surrounded by people who may not be supportive or understanding the goal is to give you a sense of calmness and stability in the Yin and protective strength in the Yang.
Even if you still think compassion is only something you apply to others then consider this, the wonderful thing about fierce self-compassion is that it isn’t just about you. Every time you show self-compassion it’s a shining light that creates a permission structure for others to do the same.
This tool was adapted from work by Elaine Houston and Dr. Kristin Neff’s ‘Fierce Self-Compassion Break’.