For about a week, the word “story” has been rattling around in my head, perhaps because there’s a song I keep hearing on the radio by Big Daddy Weave called “My Story” in which the narrator speaks of the grace, mercy, and kindness that have been shown to him by God through others. Or, maybe the word “story” is on my mind as my partner and I plan to wrap up the story of his experiences in the Vietnam War. Or, it’s possible that I’m thinking of personal narratives following a professional conference on Friday during which I was exposed to the stories of dozens of counselors and clients.
Whatever the reason, I noticed myself using the word with my clients this week, inviting them to share with me their story. Most of them were taken aback, having not thought about the story they tell themselves about who they are. And several of them came to the realization that the narrative that lives in their mind is not the same narrative they show to the world. Too often, the fear-based inner critic believes that the story must be self-centered, harsh, and unforgiving in order to protect us from perceived “threats”. We buy into that story about ourselves, others, and the world until a trusted person points out to us that they see something different unfolding.
This was definitely the case for me when I began my journey to recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder in 2005. I believed the plot my inner critic developed: I was weak-willed, too sensitive, and would never be good enough to achieve what I wanted in life. Then during one of my counseling sessions, my therapist said to me, “You’re so hard on yourself. What would it be like to be gentle?” I honestly didn’t know. Fear had driven my behavior for so long, I didn’t know how to be gentle at first. But, by allowing myself to sit quietly with my thoughts, letting go of critical self-talk and tuning into the more gentle voice underneath the static, I found that seed of self-compassion.
If you’re struggling with self-compassion or your story has been written by a harsh inner critic, consider trying some exercises to find that gentle voice within. Here’s one website that I really like, which has several audio versions of self-compassion exercises: click here. If you’re in a crunch for time, allow yourself just seven minutes to take the “Self-Compassion Break”. It’s amazing how quickly your life narrative will change when you bring to light that gentleness and peace that exists in all of us.
Peace, joy, and health,