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Its HARD Being Gentle November 23, 2012

Posted by Living Abundance in Uncategorized.
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The past few months I have been paying a great deal of attention to how I am gentle with myself, or rather as is more often the case, how much I am not gentle with myself. I am harsh with myself in a number of ways, which I am sure I share with many people:

– I have very high expectations of myself, kind of an all-or-nothing attitude. If I can’t achieve a self-image or value all the time to the best of my ability, then I shouldn’t do it at all. I get quite idealistic about how I “should” be.

– I am harsh with how I spend my time. I can get quite caught up in paying meticulously close attention to how much time I take to do certain things, and I can get quite rushed and impatient.

– I am harsh with my energy levels, where I push the limits of how much energy I can drain out of myself in order to accomplish a task. I tell myself at certain times that it doesn’t matter how hard I have to motivate myself, I have to push my energy to get a task done.

– I am harsh with my body when I find myself a large amount of the time holding onto at least some degree of physical tension, usually in my upper shoulder/ lower neck muscles.

What I have been trying to cultivate is a great deal of self-compassion and love for myself. I try to use the phrase as often as I can “May I be gentle with myself.” The way of self-compassion is the way out of the suffering caused by harshness with myself.

What I have been trying to practice is gentleness, by trying to relax tension in my body, slow down, and ease up on the harsh expectations. Nevertheless, as simple as it sounds and as clear and effective an answer it seems, I am finding that it is hard being gentle. So why am I finding this so hard to do?

Perhaps it is because I have a great deal of very strong habit energy built up that is still playing itself out. Even when I can see myself being harsh with myself and I have a deep desire to live in a state of more gentleness, the habit energy still plays itself out and I feel powerless to stop it. I know I mention it frequently, but I spent six years as a full-time university student, and I know this experience has shaped who I am today.

Perhaps it is because I am becoming more familiar with wanting mind and wanting mind still has a strong hold over me. I am greedy for more “stuff”, “things”, tasks, events, achievements and accomplishments. I am seeing more clearly lately how I can be caught up in “creating a self” where I am still identified with what I do. I feel a need to “prove myself” because it simply isn’t enough to just be.

Perhaps it is because I find it so difficult to be flexible and make exceptions to my “rules”, because this means admitting defeat or failure and falling short of my ideals of perfection. It makes so much sense, but can be so difficult to do, to say that a task can’t be done because I am ill, not feeling physically or emotionally well, stressed, running late, I have low energy, or I made a mistake or simply forgot with too many other ideas on my mind.

Finally, the more I reflected on the question of “Why is it so hard to be gentle?” an answer I came up with was maybe having it all come down to feeling that I don’t deserve to be gentle with myself. I am not worthy enough of a person just as I am to deserve some rest, some relaxation, some imperfection or mistakes. Related to this is a feeling that being gentle means being a lot slower with myself, and that a perception that slowness would lead to a number of things: failure (I cannot be “successful” as in material success and status), lazy (and therefore being slobby and wasting away one’s time), and irresponsible (as in carefree and forgetful).

What does it look like to be more gentle with myself, when I actually am able to achieve it on the rare occasion? I find it requires a great deal of diligence and mental effort to maintain that state of mind, as well as compassion. I slow down and fewer tasks seem to get done, that is, the unimportant ones—accompanied by feelings of failure and disappointment. And there is a constant running thread of “no” being said: no, not now.



1. Nina - November 23, 2012

Hello Andrea,

Habits are interesting things. On the one hand, they help us through our world by unconsciously letting us do things without much effort in order to preserve some of our precious mental effort. However, on the other hand, sometimes our habits may be hurting us in ways we don’t know until the hurt that is associated with it becomes apparent. I think that identifying habits that hurt us is a good thing. But, I think to truly overcome them and weaken their associations, we have to identify why they are there and why they were formed. Then, it becomes easier to identify when we may behave or think habitually before the habit just happens/takes over, making it eventually easier, over time to break the habit! I’ve thought a lot about it and about the habits that have appeared in my life that have caused me hurt and that seems to be a good answer for me, although it is hard work and often very emotional to figure it all out.

I think that you deserve to be gentle with yourself. You deserve respect, compassion and loving simply because you are you. Every person deserves respect, compassion and love, from others and from ourselves. If you don’t take the time to nurture yourself, you will end up nurturing only others, when you are just as worthy as everyone else for some lovin’. I am a strong believer in the saying that you can only truly love others once you love yourself.

Just some thoughts I thought I would share.

Miss you lots and will be writing to you soon 🙂

2. Living Abundance - November 24, 2012

Hi Nina,
What a wonderful surprise! It makes me SO happy to know you read my post and took the time to write a thoughtful comment. 🙂
Thanks so much for your words and I agree with everything you said 100%. I like how your “identification” would be similar to my “awareness” or “mindfulness.”
For me, I can get caught up in trying to think about or figure out my habits too much. It takes up a lot of my mental effort and energy that I think could be better spent with other things. I truly believe in the idea that “the mind heals itself” (I have experienced it), all I have to do is bring the awareness or mindfulness to it. Then the endless associations between habit and hurting become so apparent that I stop without trying.
Of course, I know that I deserve gentleness, respect, and compassion, but sometimes I forget. I end up not being respectful to myself when trying to achieve other goals at the same time. This is something I am learning more and more every day is how to find the compassion and gentleness in as much as what I do as possible. It is a very fine line.
If I don’t nurture myself, but just try to nurture others, am I really nurturing them in the best way I can? Or do my actions still have a residue of non-acceptance or criticism of that other person?
Miss you lots too! Can’t wait to hear from you again soon.

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