Growing Up Jeub · Personal reflections · Recovery

Letters of Self-Compassion: You’ve Come So Far!

Image: a mountain path partially covered by clouds. Photo by Vittorio Staffolani.

Pride is often misunderstood and utilized as a means of tearing down. In the same way, self-compassion is often misunderstood and downplayed. Self-compassion isn’t a “pat on the back” for doing the bare minimum. Rather, it balances care.

For so much of my life, I thought pride was a bad thing. “Pride comes before a fall,” was a commonly repeated maxim from the book of Proverbs. Whenever there was a moment of accomplishment, our parents would say, “don’t let it get to your head,” or “don’t get cocky.” Then it was time to discuss what we could have done better, often with a helping of verbal and physical abuse.

I see this now as a way to undermine us. It kept us from ever feeling like we were enough, or that we could possibly do enough. Now I recognize that I deserved to have compassionate caregiving, rather than being forced to the majority of the caregiving throughout my childhood and early adulthood.

Pride is okay. It is completely normal to feel a sense of accomplishment or achievement. There’s a difference between perfectionism – where perfection is an unachievable standard – and thinking you’re perfect. I don’t think anyone is perfect. The problem isn’t pride, it’s arrogance. I don’t think I’m perfect or that I’m beyond improvement. I can, however, look back and see that I’ve come a long way.

When I was taking a course on self-compassion earlier this year, everyone there said we are self-critical, but we do our best to offer kindness and care to the people in our lives. In fact, we feel free to “beat ourselves up.” If someone else makes a mistake, we’ll try to offer encouragement. When we make mistakes, we use negativity to try and motivate ourselves to avoid making mistakes, ever.

Image: woman hugging herself on a seashore. Photo by Nadin Sh.

Self-compassion is a genuinely difficult practice. It takes mindfulness and awareness of the internal self-talk that is so automatic, we can hardly identify it at first. Everyone has a different mental experience, and this self-talk may be visual, auditory, or a physical or emotional sensation. Self-compassion also means responding with kindness, holding the aspects of ourselves that we may not like at all. It takes practice to identify our negativity, choose not to judge our own negativity, and instead respond with understanding and care.

It’s also important to understand that self-compassion is not selfishness, that is, valuing yourself at the exclusion of others. Rather, it’s a decision to stop excluding yourself from your own compassion. If you are a kind person, and you are not kind to yourself internally, it can be revolutionary to realize that you deserve kindness, too. You deserve compassion and care.

When I started writing my letters of self-compassion, this was the goal. It’s not because I don’t care about other people and their needs. It’s because I spent most of my life thinking so much about other’s needs that I was totally out of touch with my own needs. This applies to both my physical and emotional needs. I didn’t recognize that I needed to be cared for, too. I would forget to eat, just as much as I would avoid asking for help.

Here is a short note to myself from this morning:


I know looking back at the past is so hard. It brings up so much pain. It’s okay to feel that it’s heavy and painful, because it really is. Now look at where you are this morning. You are not waking up in the morning with a sense of dread and religious fervor. You did not wake up today thinking you had to say a prayer for strength to get through. You didn’t wake up with fear and aggravation because of being awakened aggressively. You did it – you got away! It’s okay to look back and feel relief.

Tomorrow I fly out for our moving trip. I will arrive at my new home on my birthday, July 17th. I’ll try to write a birthday post that day, but until then, I’ll be busy with cleaning and other final details, then traveling. We have a long way to go, so we’ve split the trip into two travel days – the 12th and 17th. I have a list of people who will get updates on our safety as we travel. I’ll be sending out texts and emails for that purpose whenever we land.

If you’d like to help my partner, Ryan, and me to get food on travel days and settle into our new place, please send donations to ArtStardust on CashApp/Venmo or to our fundraiser. Thank you all so much for making it possible for me to seek a better life!

Image: an airplane passes over a forest. Photo by Sam Willis.