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What Spilled Yogurt Helped Me Realize About My Anxiety

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I realized I had changed when I accidentally knocked yogurt onto the floor at a supermarket checkout. This change wasn’t that I was now covered in full-fat diary, but something much more subtle and profound.

I had been solo food shopping at a particular German supermarket known for its take-no-prisoners approach to checkout efficiency. Well experienced in the art of speed packing, I nevertheless miscalculated my cardboard box’s turning circle, and blithely pushed a family sized yogurt tub from its allocated “safe” place. In hindsight, the “edge of the” anything is probably not strictly a safe place for anything. Predictably, the feeble plastic pot split on the hard tiled floor in a muffled explosion of white gloop.

I lingered a moment, briefly considered the feasibility of a fuck-it-and-run strategy, and then remembered my apparent adulthood. Sigh. I dutifully alerted the checkout assistant; he simply nodded, noted blue wipes weren’t going to cut it in this case, and publicly requested a “clean-up at checkouts” via the store tannoy system.

As I waited at the side I noticed it. I wasn’t haphazardly trying to clean up with handbag paper scraps. I wasn’t frantically trying to distract others from witnessing my discomfort by over-apologizing. I wasn’t deep-diving into a shame whirlpool from public embarrassment and the inconvenience to others.

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Instead, I stood there and noticed compassionate thoughts arise. My brain gently reminded me there is no point crying over spilt yogurt and that such incidents frequently happen in supermarkets. That some of the other waiting customers may well have had similar experiences. And crucially, that I was not a terrible person because I made a mistake. I offered a single genuine apology, thanked the assistant for my replacement yogurt, and carried on with my day.

There are many ways our anxious minds can kick us when we are down. But like the reassuring warmth of a well-worn favorite jumper, self-compassion is self-love in action. Our high emotions calmed by our own kind, internal thoughts. This gentle recognition of our human flaws holds an empathetic power for genuine connection. I am not perfect, and neither are you, and that is absolutely fine.

Getty image by Ponomariova_Maria

Originally published: October 29, 2020
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