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The Simple Question That Helped Me Find My Way to Self-Compassion

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Having self-compassion has never come easily to me, possibly because I have struggled with undiagnosed depression most of my life. I have only known negative self-talk, and it fills my mind every moment of every day.

Ironically, I then criticize myself for the negative thoughts. It’s a never-ending cycle. In fact, just thinking about having self-compassion can bring me to tears. I don’t feel worthy of such a thing. This is part of what my depression does to me.

My depression constantly fills me with self-doubt and criticism. I believe this may be true for many people with depression. Things I would never say to anyone else I say to myself over and over again.

Depression tells me I don’t matter to anyone. That I am a failure who just needs to try harder. I am selfish and a “burden” to those around me. Because I can no longer work, people see me as someone who is useless and lazy. They see me as a person who has wasted my opportunities and abilities. Depression tells me these lies, and I believe them every time. It tells me I am broken beyond repair and I should give up on everything, on everyone, on life.

Just fighting against these thoughts is hard enough — how can I find a way to self-compassion? It started with a simple therapy exercise. “How would you treat a friend who had depression?” This one question allowed me to open my mind to empathy and kindness. I could step away from my negative thoughts and view things with perspective.

Finding self-compassion and treating myself as I would a friend showed me that I am deserving of love, kindness, support and empathy. I do not need to feel guilty. I didn’t do anything wrong and I am not a failure. I have depression and am working hard to do the best I can.

Self-compassion reminds me that I am not selfish, I am sick. I am not a “burden,” but to the contrary, people want to be there for me and to help me in any way they can. The people who care about me don’t judge me based on what I can’t do. They support me in everything I can do.

Self-compassion reminds me that I may be broken, but I am loved and I am good enough just as I am. It reminds me that I am brave for fighting depression every. single. day. The most important reminder self-compassion brings me is that I do matter. I matter a great deal to my family and friends, and they would not be the same without me here.

While answering the question “How would you treat a friend?” may bring different answers to everyone, to me, it brings relief. A short respite from the lies depression tells. These moments allow for a glimmer of hope. Hope that one day I will love myself, and hope that there is an existence beyond depression. We could all use a little more self-compassion, a little more love, and a little more hope.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: September 21, 2016
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