Why do we always anticipate the worst when a blip appears on the radar screen? We gird ourselves for calamity even as irrefutable experience tells us the mountain is only a mole hill.
I encounter the condition so often I’m prone to think it’s endemic for humans to get caught up in anxiety when the path ahead veers ever so slightly from expectation and intention. Who ever said we were supposed to be perfect! Yet ask someone if they deserve to be loved and treated with kindness when in the midst of a rough patch, and you’ll be astonished at the numbers who say, “Nah, not me.”
We must learn to nurture ourselves with caring and compassion for our own existential feelings!
I end that statement with an exclamation point because it is essential to honor your humanness. Life is not without frustration and loss. You will make mistakes. You will fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition. It is a reality shared by all of us. Flog yourself with self-imposed negative thoughts and it is infinitely more difficult to feel entitled to joy and fulfillment.
Compassion for others can come easily. You notice they are suffering. Your heart responds to their pain. You offer understanding and kindness rather than judging them. Self-compassion is acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a challenging time! Instead of ignoring your anxiety with a sense of inevitability, respond to the angst by asking yourself, “what can I do to comfort and care for myself in this moment?” Having compassion for oneself is as important as having compassion for others.
Observe and ask, “Where does it hurt,” recognizing the feelings rather than leaping ahead to catastrophe. Often the question leads to the cause of the trigger, a childhood scolding by parents when it was nurturing and understanding that was needed – hearing “you are so stupid” rather than “it’s okay, mistakes happen.” As an adult the task is to refute the negative self-judgement that was planted and offer yourself self-kindness.
When smooth sailing is threatened by turbulence observe your thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. You are not a victim; the reality simply is that people cannot always be or get exactly what they want.
The yogic idea of perfection is that each moment is perfect: we learn from it, even if we don’t hit the mark. The next moment is another opportunity to learn more about ourselves, as are all the moments that follow. So give yourself a break. A hit song from 1988 said it best, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Simplistic advice, but perhaps not, as this famous quote from Mark Twain reminds us, “I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.”