Those who are raised without love and care grow up to struggle with self-compassion and self-love.
Children of unloving parents face difficulties in their adult lives as they grow up to become adults who are incapable of showing themselves compassion. It is not surprising that if you have grown up being incessantly criticized and judged, you too will be critical and judgemental of yourself. If your entire childhood, you have been told that you are not good enough, that you are lazy, weak, etc., you will inevitably grow up believing these things. This means that when you face failure and setbacks, you will likely blame yourself. You might find yourself saying or thinking things like:
- “Of course I was not the one to get promoted, I am not ambitious enough.”
- “It is no surprise that they left me, they finally saw that I am not good enough.”
- “I will never accomplish my goals, I am too lazy to follow through.”
There is a difference between being self-critical and thinking critically.
Being self-critical means ignoring all of the circumstances in a situation and focusing solely on yourself and your perceived shortcomings. When one is self-critical, they blame themselves – even in situations where they are not at fault. Self-criticism is different from thinking critically as the latter allows one to analyze a situation, assess their behavior, and be realistic about who is at fault. People who have been raised by loving and supportive families self-assess and think critically. Peg Streep, author of Daughter Detox: Recovering from an Unloving Mother and Reclaiming Your Life, explains that they ‘weigh their own performance, along with other factors that may have contributed to the result; they ask themselves how they might have handled things better and factor in those elements of the situation they had no control over’. This thinking process is completely different from that of those who have been raised by unloving parents.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is not self-pity. It means being able to see yourself in the larger context of humanity and feel compassion for yourself as you would with others. In other words, you must be able to show yourself the same kindness and understanding which you show your friends, family, and even strangers. According to Kristin Neff, there are three things which characterize self-compassion:
- Extending kindness and understanding to yourself, rather than judgment or criticism.
- Seeing your experience as aligned with and a part of larger human experience.
- Keeping yourself aware of your painful feelings without over-identification with them.
How can you learn to have self-compassion?
The first step to learning how to have self-compassion is realizing that you lack it. You need to first become aware of your unconscious behaviors and self-destructive thoughts before you can begin showing yourself compassion.
Streep writes that there are 3 things one must do:
1. Recognize the way you react to situations:
Streep recommends paying attention to the voice inside your head when you fail or encounter setbacks. Ensure that you catch yourself being self-critical and judgmental so that you can correct yourself.
2. Notice how you handle compliments or praise:
If you find that you ignore compliments and praise, then you are getting in the way of your own happiness. Not believing people’s praise is another form of self-criticism which you must work to eliminate.
3. Work on being realistic when you fail:
Streep suggests tracking your reactivity by journaling so that you can identify the way you feel and how you think. It is only through identifying your self-destructive behaviors and thought patterns that you can work on changing them.