Why are so many of us able to offer kindness and compassion to others, but not to ourselves?
One of the most damaging ways in which we tend to abuse ourselves is through feelings of guilt. Often this tendency was inflicted upon us in childhood–many of us have been disciplined through the use of guilt tactics and it has become ingrained in our thinking process. Good, well-intended people fall prey to this kind of self-abuse most often because by nature they are more concerned with other’s feelings than they are with their own. These kind, compassionate people would never dream of inflicting the same kind of guilty emotional pain on others as they automatically inflict on themselves. Those with only bad intentions towards others don’t have the capacity to feel guilt or they wouldn’t be able to continue doing what they do.
If we examine those times that we feel guilty for something we’ve said or done, we’ll often realize that we had only the best intentions for saying or doing what we did, and the degree of punishment we’ve chosen to inflict upon ourselves does not fit. When our actions come from a place of goodness and love, but are received by another in a way we never intended, that is not our fault–we should not feel guilty. Then why do we continue to beat ourselves up?
Guilt serves no purpose at all. It is only a way to abuse ourselves. Either we can take some kind of action to correct what we’re feeling guilty about or we can’t. Guilt is a programmed response that happens automatically. In order to break the cycle we have to first be aware of what we are doing and why.
The best thing to do is to remind ourself to be as gentle with our own self as we would be with someone else. We should recognize that we would never dream of causing someone else to feel as bad as we are making our own self feel.
We can not suffer from guilt and profess to love our self; it is not possible. Overcoming the need to punish ourself is the first step in learning self-love.
I don’t think our tendency toward self-inflicted guilt ever goes away entirely. Self-love is a specific choice we make every day. It takes a continual conscious effort. Our ability to love others the right way depends on it.