I’m standing in middle of the kitchen, clutching my head out of frustration. “Ugh,” I say. “I just wish I weren’t so freaking stupid sometimes.”
“Page,” Justin says.
I move my hand and look directly into his eyes. “What?”
“Stop being so mean to my friend.”
I crack a smile. “Okay.”
When Someone I Love Puts Themselves Down, It’s Almost Like I’m Caught in the Middle of Two Friends Arguing
It’s a habit we developed ages ago. At this point, it’s a long-running private joke, a kind of custom conversational interrupt (like another I’ve written about, “How do we get back to okay?“). When one of us is being too hard on ourselves, the other will intervene and say, “Hey, stop being mean to my friend.”
When I’m spiraling deep into a cycle of self-criticism, it’s easy to forget that while I sometimes feel like my own worst enemy that I’m someone else’s friend. And that someone is watching me pick that friend apart, effectively watching someone they love destroy someone they love, one word at a time.
And while I’m often oblivious when I’m the self-critic, I get it when I’m standing in their shoes. When someone I love puts themselves down, it’s almost like I’m caught in the middle of two friends arguing. I desperately want to stop the fighting, but the last thing I want to do is damage those relationships.
Self-Compassion Involves Forgiving Yourself Like You Would Forgive a Friend
Self-compassion is the ability of a person to feel compassion for themselves when they’re suffering or fail at something. In circumstances where someone low in self-compassion would mercilessly judge and criticize themselves for making a mistake, a person who is higher in self-compassion might be more likely to forgive themselves. Research has found that self-compassion is a vital part of overall emotional health and well-being, even more so than other more widely known measures such as self-esteem.
In essence, it’s about extending the same compassion to yourself that you would to someone else you care about. One of the most basic self-compassion exercises involves considering how you would normally look upon yourself when you’re suffering and then turning around asking yourself “How would I treat a close friend in this same situation?”
If there’s a big difference, if you’re way harsher on yourself than you would be on a dear friend, then that’s an opportunity to stop and examine whether this self-criticism is warranted. Probably not.
Hey, Stop Being So Mean to My Friend
Anyway, self-compassion is something that I’ve been working on for about a decade now. I used to find it easy to extend compassion to others and then turn around and rip myself to shreds at the slightest mistake. These days not so much (although I’ll occasionally be self-critical in a way that isn’t helpful).
It’s been a long time coming, but the work has been worth it. And it’s seriously nice to have a friend — like Justin — who will guide me through it.
Someone who cares enough to intervene to tell me, “Hey, stop being so mean to my friend.”