If life is like a box of chocolates, as a movie character famously said, then love is like a roller coaster. Incredible highs, the lowest of lows, and a thrill ride that can leave you feeling exhilarated, disappointed, or nauseous.
Relationships can bring a joy and contentment that spans days, months, years or even decades. But relationships also bring hurt and heartbreak. Feelings of being misunderstood, let down, or betrayed can cut deep. Personal guilt and remorse can be equally destructive.
Can you move your relationship — and yourself — forward in a healthy, positive way when you are feeling hurt?
Moving forward starts with you
You have probably heard the phrase, "You can’t love someone else until you love yourself." It seems silly, but it’s true. Self-love builds from self-compassion — an acceptance and understanding of who you are and what you have experienced.
With self-compassion, you treat yourself with kindness and empathy, and consider yourself worthy and deserving of loving relationships. Self-compassion can help buffer the pain and hurt that any relationship can bring — even long-term and loving ones.
You might be thinking if you were kind to yourself all the time, you'd stay in pajamas and watch TV all day. But self-compassion isn't a pity party, or letting yourself off the hook.
It's a mindset change that removes self-judgement, so you can bring your best self to every situation — and helps you frame the inevitable challenges you experience within a common human experience. Like the bumper sticker says, "stuff happens." When you realize everyone shares a common experience, you have compassion when others are suffering from loss, frustration, or their own failings; and you learn to have compassion for yourself as well.
Living a self-compassionate life
Self-compassion starts with accepting you aren't perfect, because nobody is. When you are in a relationship and dealing with hurt or pain, self-compassion also reminds you that you are worthy of love and respect — just as you are. Feeling worthy shapes how you let others treat you, and how you treat others. There's a confidence that comes with self-worth that helps you commit to relationships that make you feel good; and let go of relationships that don't.
Letting go is another aspect of self-compassion. With self-compassion, you learn not to punish yourself for a mistake. But self-forgiveness doesn't end with "I'm sorry." Choosing to forgive yourself means you are willing to learn from your mistake or failing, grow from it and then, let it go. You let go of the baggage you carry around that either makes you feel guilty or helps you blame or judge. The learning and growth from forgiveness can include repairing a relationship or perhaps, moving on to a different path.
Mindfulness is another important part of self-compassion. While the idea of mindfulness might seem a little “out there” — it's exactly the opposite. Mindfulness keeps you focused on and aware of the present. If you are dealing with complex emotions, you explore them openly and without judgement or labels. For example, "I can't let this relationship fail, what will I tell my friends?" would be a non-mindful thought. A mindful thought would be, "This relationship has taught me that I have more growing to do on my own before I settle down." You aren't looking for a right or wrong, but simply exploring your thoughts from a new perspective. Mindfulness can help you develop new perspectives and lead you to see a bigger picture.
Putting self-compassion into practice
Treating yourself with compassion is all about offering yourself kindness when you need it most. You listen to your needs without judgement, you forgive yourself and recognize you are only human. You try to grow from mistakes and do things better next time. But it's also an acknowledgement that you’re just doing your best — and sometimes that is enough.
Are you looking to heal from a hurtful experience? If so, you have everything to gain by practicing self-compassion. It doesn’t require special skills or equipment. All you need is yourself, an open mind, and a desire to treat yourself — and others — with the compassion you need and deserve.
Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.
Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.