When you find yourself in genuine difficulty, which path you do choose?
The path of self-harshness? This is the way of criticism, loathing, comparison. And the way of pushing harder and harder.
Self-harshness, so familiar to so many of us that we don’t even see that it is what we are doing, has the surprising effect of increasing harshness everywhere in our lives.
Or the path of self-kindness? This is the way of taking exquisite care of yourself, asking for what you need, stepping into the deep bonds of support that are so often available to us, turning the loving attention of your own heart towards yourself in the midst of your difficulty.
Self-kindness, so unfamiliar to so many of us that we do not even consider it an option, has the surprising effect of making kindness possible towards many others, even in the darkest, most frightening, most disorientating of times.
Most of us are confused about this. We equate self-harshness with righteousness (perhaps we think we’ll redeem ourselves if we add to our suffering) and self-kindness with a moral softness (perhaps because we’re so convinced we’re broken and at fault already that kindness would be an act of irresponsibility).
But the more I look at the results of my own self-harshness, and that of others, the more convinced I am that we’ve got it all, precisely, back to front.