Hey, Stop Being So Mean to My Friend: A Self-Compassion Conversational Interrupt

It's someone's lecture notes from a lecture. At the top left it reads "Self compassion Kristen Neff, PhD." At the top right, it reads "2015-03-24a, notes by Sacha Chua." Going top to bottom, left to right, first heading reads compassion. Under it it reads recognition of suffering, feelings of kindness, desire to help, shared Next heading: Self-compassion, under heading it reads self-kindness, common humanity - everyone, mindfulness, (awareness of awareness, responding vs reacting) next heading exercises, under heading is letter from imaginary friend, 3-chair (self-critic, judged, wise, compassionate observer), self-hug, caress, identify interconnectedness, noting thoughts, mindfully working with pain, mindfulness meditation, self-compassion journal, soften, soothe, allow, develop your own self-compassion mantra, compassionate imagery, compassionate body scan, identifying the trickster (ego), next heading "why is this a challenge," under heading: the need to feel better than others, parents, culture, the desire for control, map vs. territory, self-esteem opt out, contigent?, self-compassion is more helpful, love not fear, hate can't conquer hate, self-judgement can't stop self-judgement, next heading better, under heading understand, have compassion - actively comfort, replace w/kinder response (embrace & replace), next header, attachment patterns can be reformed, love, therapy, unconditional support, next header this is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need. Next header. Identifying what I really want, procrastination and understand fear, self-compassion & our bodies, taking care of the caregiver, next heading phases, backdraft, infatuation, true acceptance, next header Marshall Rosenberg, What am I observing? What am I feeling? what am I needing right now? Do I have a request of myself or someone else? next header control, not thoughts but how we relate to them, observe doesn't equal believe, next header p. 53 Notice - stop & recognize, soften, reframe, next header rumination, don't judge yourself, next header give yourself, kindness & care, remind yourself pain is part of the shared human exp., mindful awareness, next header dark chocolate - happy + sad, next header, directing, loving-kindness to our suffering, identifying your relationship patterns, self-compassion break, next header releasing sexual shame, transforming negativity, take a pleasure walk, next header, the demoralizing whip, next header loveliness, I don't belong, because of focus uniqueness, us vs. them, next header perfectionism vs being human, learning, next header interconnectedness, next header suffering = pain x resistance, the more we resist, the more we suffer, next header compassionate, mind training, mindful awareness parenting, gratitude & savoring, next header finding the silver lining, keeping a gratitude journal, savor the moment
Image by Sacha Chua / CC BY

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.”


Books by Page Turner:

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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