“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~ Gautama Buddha
I have already discussed the many benefits of surrounding yourself with a team of supportive, compassionate, non-judgmental, loyal, and loving individuals with whom you can band together in the event of an apocalyptic disaster. I neglected to mention, however, the most important member of said apocalypse team: YOU.
You are the coach and captain and star player of your own team. For better or worse, you are the one person whose position is locked in for life.
This can be an amazing reality, if you’ve learned how to offer yourself the same kindness and encouragement and acceptance and compassion you receive from your other team members.
Sadly, we often forget to be gentle with ourselves when we encounter feelings of which we are not particularly fond or fall short of our own expectations in any way. We forget to forgive or comfort ourselves, not realizing that we deserve our own friendship and sympathy as much as we do that from anybody else.
Also, your apocalypse team is not always going to be available. Regardless of how wonderful they are or how much they want to be there for you.
But you can always be available to yourself. If you choose to be.
Which is pretty cool, actually. But also requires some effort on your part, and the willingness to show up and pay attention and wade through some tough stuff without abandoning yourself in the process.
I learned this lesson last weekend, when I found myself face-to-face with sadness and loneliness and feeling overwhelmingly disheartened. Which was discouraging and led to a lot of resistance on my part initially. And then to feeling badly about feeling badly.
Unfortunately, the members of my apocalypse team were all otherwise occupied at this time, so I was forced to be alone with myself instead of seeking love and compassion and kind words from some external source.
The problem was, I wasn’t doing a particularly effective job of supporting myself or being gentle with myself as I cried and felt crappy and sunk more deeply into sadness. If anything, I was berating myself for my inability to just “suck it up” and “feel better already.”
Again, not particularly productive self-talk.
So I sought advice in the form of The Depression Book by Cheri Huber, wherein she talks about treating yourself the way you would treat a dear friend, allowing your feelings – of depression or sadness or loneliness – to be ok, to accept them without indulging them or denying them, to see them as an opportunity for self-exploration and growth instead of a sign of weakness or emotional regression.
She asserts that it is our resistance to our feelings that perpetuates their presence.
It is also our responsibility to be our own biggest ally and most compassionate friend. Doing so is not selfish, it is essential.
Reading this nugget of wisdom completely changed my experience of feeling sad and lonely and disheartened. I stopped judging myself for having these emotions, drew myself a bath, turned on a mindless Netflix movie, lit some candles, and treated myself with compassion.
And it was amazing. Even though I was still sad. Even though there were still tears. Letting go of my resistance to the experience and my belief that I should be feeling in that moment anything other than what I was actually feeling was incredibly liberating.
And helped me move through the emotions with more clarity and patience and trust that they were not permanently in place.
Next time you’re feeling unhappy or lonely or even frustrated and angry, try speaking to yourself the way you would a close friend, showering yourself with kindness and compassionate self-talk, resisting the urge to resist what you’re feeling and allowing yourself the freedom to feel.
We are not built to be perpetually joyful and ecstatic, consistent and uninterrupted in our excitement about life. Sadness, depression, and loneliness are all normal and healthy emotional experiences, feelings that invite you to love yourself a little bit more, to slow down and seek solace in your willingness to care for yourself unconditionally.
Which is not indulgent, but is kind. And sets the stage for your capacity to show compassion to others when they find themselves facing similar feelings.
Remember that you are the anchor of your own apocalypse team, the one person who is always available to you for encouragement, support, love, and acceptance.
Note: I recognize that depression is a serious illness that can be life-threatening and personally devastating. The information and suggestions contained in this post are in no way intended to replace professional assistance and support in the treatment of mental illness of any kind.