This month I was asked to record a podcast on self-compassion for the online magazine, Recovery Warriors. They are a great, uplifting support for those struggling with disordered eating and body image issues. At the end of the podcast, the host, Jessica Flint, asked me what was one of my favorite quotes? I have many, but the one I chose was actually one of my own that I tell my clients quite often. There is a difference between just surviving in your life and through recovery and thriving. It all comes down to the approach you take toward it all.
This concept doesn’t just apply to recovery but to any suffering. There is a difference between getting by, getting through, or in other words just surviving a challenging time, or learning how to thrive and grow, not just after it is over but during it as well. The key question that makes the difference is, how do you hold the moments of challenge and suffering? Are you gentle? Or do you push and harshly drive your way through? We are enculturated to believe that we must suffer through suffering! It is the typical mind-set of, “no pain, no gain,” and the striving mind that says, being harsh on yourself is the only way out. When we approach suffering in this way we actually add on more! However, there is another way. Being self-compassionate actually creates intense effort, momentum, and change, only it uses kindness rather than criticism to motivate!
This was the key finding in my doctoral research on self-compassion and the primary message throughout my book. It is not that suffering will disappear, rather, what we know both from my own research and so many others, is that when we approach and hold our suffering in a self-compassionate way we actually transform it and learn so many new things during the process, not just when it is done. Self-compassion allows you to hold the suffering in a new way that teaches you about the moment, helps you to grow, heightens your awareness, and builds resiliency along the way. All without creating more suffering. My clients who have fully recovered know that because they held recovery in this self-compassionate way, it ended up being the gift that taught them the most about living a full, joyous life.
Here are some self-compassionate phrases from my book Befriending Your Body: A Self-Compassionate Approach to Freeing Yourself from Disordered Eating that can help you to reset difficult moments of suffering and instead turn them into moments of growth. Where they are geared toward eating disorder recovery, you may apply these phrases throughout any difficult moment:
I recognize that something is wrong. This is all I have to know right now.
I will begin to listen to my inner knowing, including the messages from my body that are concerning to me. I intend to continue to move toward the truth, even though it is painful.
It is okay to admit to these very real, scary, and dark thoughts and feelings I have right now.
I will not criticize my current pain and in turn create even more pain. What I am dealing with now is enough.
I understand that there is light beyond this pain, even if I do not feel it right now.