I often hear from people with lupus about the frustration that comes with not being able to do the things you were once able to before symptoms struck. For many, it is not only frustration, but sadness and disappointment in oneself and one’s life situation. As we leave the gloom of winter behind, I am writing today to suggest a thorough spring cleaning of the “should’s” you inflict on yourself and ask that you have the same compassion for yourself that you would have for others.
We often find it easier to treat others with far more kindness than we offer ourselves. I understand, however, that coming to a place of accepting your new “normal” can be a difficult road to go down, usually involves grieving losses, and is an ongoing process. Everyone is at a different place in this process, but I don’t think it is ever too early to at least start thinking about self-compassion.
For example, it’s common to approach spring with new energy and ambitions – time to reorganize your closets. But despite pushing yourself, you can’t get through even one because you are just too tired. If you are self-critical, you might tell yourself “I am a failure for not being able to get this done in one day the way I used to.” It would be self-compassionate to instead say, “I am feeling very fatigued today, so I will do as much as I can and then I will rest. If it takes me longer than it used to, that’s OK.”
In the spirit of this season of renewal and growth, I’m asking that you try a kind of spring cleaning to sweep away unkind thoughts about yourself. Start by clearing out at least one self-critical thought, leaving room for a gentler, more reassuring and nonjudgmental one. Once you are able to rid your mind of one negative thought, try to think about dusting off another and another.
Would you consider a friend a failure if they could not clean a closet or repaint a fence because of lupus? Probably not. Self-compassion is a more loving way to treat yourself than self-criticism. It takes a little bit of re-training to notice every time you unfairly judge yourself. But over time, it will become easier, and you will probably start to notice and enjoy the kinder, gentler attitude toward yourself. Word of caution: don’t turn this into another opportunity to be self-critical. If you have trouble letting go of those self-critical thoughts, try not to criticize yourself for it!
What self-critical thoughts would you like to throw away during spring cleaning and what new thoughts would you like to see grow?
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