Over the weekend Bloody Good Chap came to meet me after I hung out with three girlfriends at the beach, and as we walked along the gritty sand watching a dog burying his face, I realised that
I was feeling something heavy that didn’t make any sense after the fun I’d just had.
I told BGC how I’d had a great time with the girls, enjoyed the sun, jumped in the ice cold sea, shrieked a bit, then back into the sauna, enjoyed lunch together looking over the water while having awesome conversations about the wins and the hard bits of our lives lately, and the whole thing had been so lovely… yet there was still this heaviness that lingered.
I stared at the sand for a while as I pondered, right up until a dog came and flung his salty water all over us and then ran off to gnaw on some seaweed.
It wasn’t until this morning that I was standing trying to curl bits of my hair with a hair straightener that
I realised that when I’m around one of my best mates, who’s a dude, I never feel that heaviness afterwards.
I’m able to be completely myself around him, even when I’m being a selfish asshole, and even if if we have deep and upsetting conversations, I usually leave our catch ups feeling lighter or at very least neutral, but definitely not like a bag of sand.
As I noted in the mirror that I was giving myself pointy zig zags for hair, a little LED bulb on Neville’s* control panel turned green and I realised, Nev, we’re having an epiphany!
Some words galloped into my brain:
I feel heavy around girlfriends because I’m monitoring the bejaysus out of myself every time a female mate is in close range.
*NB: For anyone new to Project Self – Neville is the name of my mind.
Around girlfriends, even the most loving, kind, nurturing ones (in fact, maybe especially around them), I am constantly monitoring myself, filtering what I say, checking with myself that I’m not being a dick, not dominating the conversation too much, not being too arrogant, not being too know-it-ally, trying to be the right amount of supportive, trying to say the right things without being too try-hardy, trying to be authentic while also still trying to hide the “bad bits” of me that I don’t want to let out of the bag.
When I’m talking, Neville gets out his stopwatch and starts stamping his foot angrily if I go past his allotted time without redirecting the conversation back to someone else in the group.
All that monitoring is like a wet Barramundi to the chest.
I usually come away from catch ups with extra-lovely people feeling like a failure, Neville having picked up on the one thing I said that could have been construed as selfish or not supportive or too knobby.
Being a female human who’s a more rational, logical thinker, and less naturally empathetically attuned to others, it’s very very easy for me to state my rational opinion on something and then realise a minute later that what I’ve said is potentially not the most helpful thing to say in that situation,
at which time Neville megaphones in my ear that I’ve once again missed the point.
Yet with my male friends, and a few of my most rational, no-bullshit female friends, I don’t do this self monitoring, so no Barramundis to the chest occur, and it’s a relief that I can just be myself!
I have a sneaking suspicion this all has to do with me still being pissed off at large parts of myself, the dark bits of me that I used to have no control over when I was more emotionally-inept than I am now.
Now I can regulate my emotions much more easily, which is a godsend for not letting my moods overcome me and destroy catch ups, I can sometimes unhelpfully use those skills to hide the parts of myself that are scared that no one will love them.
This is definitely the opposite of self-acceptance, and certainly not particularly self-compassionate.
I will never be perfect, try as I bloody might.
There will always be shitty bits to my personality that I’d really rather not have.
But they’re there because they’ve protected me in the past, they have been doing their best, and it’s about time that I started trying to accept all the bits of me, light and dark, friendly and angry, kind and snappy-trouty.
For the last few months, the psych I’ve been working with to resolve old childhood bollocks has kept recommending that I download an app and practice self-compassion.
Every time I hear it, a little voice pipes up in my head and says:
“Fuck off, self compassion is for knobs”.
So in our last session, I told the psych this, in pretty much exactly those words.
• Even though I think Kristin Neff is an absolute legend and a pioneer in her field.
• Even though I’ve read the research that shows that self-compassion is hugely effective at increasing motivation, increasing capacity for creativity, increasing ability to take risks, decreasing fear of failure and increasing confidence in one’s owns abilities.
• Even though I know learning self-compassion is my next step in self-actualisation – what you resist persists – and I sure as hell am resisting self-compassion.
“How interesting” said the psych – with a knowing look that implied
“Andrea you tool, this resistance to self-compassion is a sign that this is where the work needs to be done, stop being a knob and get past the resistance so you’ll bloody well move forwards”
Neville reckons he’s done a spot-on job of interpreting her look.
So this evening I downloaded some of Kristin Neff’s self-compassion recordings.
I haven’t actually DONE any of the the meditations yet, but having the app is the first step, right!?
If you find yourself being a bastard to yourself in social situations – or anytime really –
join me in resistantly and begrudgingly trying out some self-compassion.*
AKA treating yourself like you’d treat a mate.
How hard can it be?
*(even if I slightly gagged as I wrote that.)