Imagine driving down the highway on a bright summer day. The wind flits across your skin, the sun filters every car around you in a lucid glow, and your vision shifts down for just a second. Then, the moment you look up, your life ends.
I acknowledge my melodramatic word choice. However, when the accident happened, I felt like my entire world – and not just my car – had crashed. After fidgeting my limbs to see if they still worked and checking to ensure that the other driver suffered no injury, I proceeded to have a little bit of a meltdown. When the super kind police officer walked across the highway to address me, I recall saying something along the lines of, “oh my gosh, I am so sorry, I think my entire mental schema as a responsible young adult has ended, my psychological self-concept has exploded, I sense an existential crisis beginning…”
But then, it happened: the police officer gave me a “sir, you need to calm the heck down” look. And after that, something even better struck me: self-compassion. I guided my mind toward kindness and mindfulness with the following statements:
“Thomas, you messed up. You messed up, and that is okay.”
“No one is injured, the other driver’s car only has minor scratches. A lot of people get into car accidents, and that does not decide their worth, just like this does not determine yours.”
“You will learn from this. It is okay to feel stressed, however, remember to be kind to yourself, because this will pass.”
Just like pretending not to find Ariana Grande’s music catchy, self-compassion can be a lot easier said than done, in particular when you have grown up learning to criticize yourself. The good news: you can teach yourself kindness and mindfulness by reading, meditating, practicing techniques, seeing a therapist, and more. Just like compassion toward others, self-compassion involves honoring and accepting your emotions instead of negating them, recognizing that many others share in your experiences, and treating yourself well, as you would a best friend. Society stresses trust and caring toward others: now, we can channel that within ourselves.
If you have read any of my blog posts in the past six months, you know my life kind of sucked this past semester. This summer I have worked on healing myself, through reading and writing, through mindfulness and self-compassion, and through seeing a counselor, who once called me the nerdiest Psychology person he has ever met. And while I feel tempted to hide my past posts or to erase them, I know I do not need to, because I accept that difficult things happened and that I have grown from them.
Several posts ago I mentioned “Break Free,” how the song inspires me, and how at the time, during that dark January night, I felt weak, broken, pained. Since then, I have made mistakes and I have learned from them. I have developed and matured. I recognize that breaking free does not mean erasing your imperfections or shielding yourself from vulnerability. Breaking free means, to me: living with compassion and understanding, treating yourself and others with empathy and acceptance, and of course, becoming stronger than you were before.
I am doing my best to accomplish all of those things, one step at a time. I hope you join me.
I apologize for the lack of posts as of late. Between full-time research, part-time work, and other life adventures (like a visit to the ER, which I will write about sometime soon), I have been busy. However, I cannot wait to catch up on writing and on responding to blog comments, messages, etc. As always, you can get more updates from my Goodreads and my Twitter.
Questions for you guys: have you ever been in a car accident before, and how did it go? Do you see the ~magic~ of self-compassion, or do you think you could apply similar principles in your life? Have you read any good books this summer? Looking forward to exchanging thoughts again, soon, and I hope your summers have been fantastic.