Why are we so goddamn hard on ourselves

Over the weekend, as part of a Self-Compassion class, we sat in a classroom with about 10 other people, trying to understand why we’re so messed up and hard on ourselves.

Yeah…our idea of ‘weekend fun’ may be different from yours.

We were at The School of Life Sydney, above a not-for-profit café, Folonomo, which you’ll HAVE to check out. It’s beautiful, it’s brilliant but I digress. Back at class, our course leader, Kathleen Cator, started the session with us going around the class, introducing ourselves and naming one thing we love.

There was everything from kids to photography, adventure to anything Japanese.
It was my turn and there was only one thing on my mind as I sat there, in a room full of people, next to the window where I could hear the crowd from the café below, talking, laughing as cars whizzed past.

My name is Lynette and I love silence.

The room fell silent. Then, laughter filled the space.


The point of the exercise, as we’d later discover was that not a single one of us said something we loved about ourselves. That meant we were pretty normal though because that’s how most people would respond. It often feels self-centred, egoistic and narcissistic to just outright say, “My name is Jenny and I love how much I care about my friends.”

Shut up, Jenny..

Acknowledging what you love about yourself, your strengths and talents often makes you look like an asshole but self-compassion isn’t about self-praise or self-indulgence. It’s simply acknowledgement. It’s a personal ‘thank you’ you can say to yourself for surviving that difficult break up, for not giving up on yourself when times got rough or even for getting out of bed and into the gym.

You can love how much you persist, how much you genuinely, honestly care about those who matter to you. You can keep a secret list and know that you’re truly, wonderfully awesome.

As Marianne Williamson once wrote,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Kathleen raised an important point about core beliefs and common humanity. Our core beliefs often feed the voices in our head that tell us, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m too much” or “I’m alone in this.”

It makes us want to hide away but… the truth is, it’s what connects us! Everyone has at some point of their lives felt this way. That’s common humanity – the shared experience of our suffering. The connection we make when we allow ourselves to be heard and have someone else look us in the eye and say, “me too.”

Self-compassion allows us to breathe through those moments, acknowledge that this is not the end and that we’re not ‘the worst’. It allows for kindness and sometimes that kindness means giving yourself time. Sometimes it means calling up a friend and admitting how awful this feels, it can mean looking up resources and forming practical solutions so we can get up and face the world again.

We’re wired this way for different reasons – some of us from the way we were raised to ‘always be the best’ or to ‘never show the world you’re weak’. Some of us learn from the way we view the world, “why is it that they handled the situation so much better than I did?” or “why am I the only one who’s like this?”

We forget that we often don’t get a peek into the suffering of others but we are all suffering in some way. Understanding this not only helps us be more compassionate towards ourselves but towards others as well.

So, sink into your hurts – gently, slowly, with what feels comfortable. Be mindful about what you’re feeling and where it’s stemming from. Acknowledge that you’re not alone, even when you feel that way, ESPECIALLY when you feel that way and then, be kind. Be so kind and loving with your heart. Speak to it like you would to a hurting friend and remember these lines:

“beating yourself up is never a fair fight”

– Andrea Gibson.

This was just our tiny takeout from an amazing class at The School of Life Sydney and it is by no means us ‘teaching’ Self Compassion. We are deeply interested in the subject and our intention is only to share what we have learned. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, we encourage you to check out their classes.
Written by

Daytime copywriter. Co-author at Pens&Lens. Skilled at befriending strangers just so I can pet their dogs.