Compassion and Grace Towards Self
By: Dalia Fullingim, LMFT
Compassion and Grace towards Self: The Use of Positive Mantras
In our society, there seems to be a lot of compassion and understanding for physical illness and ailments, and judgement and condemnation for mental health struggles. A person with a broken leg would never hear just walk it off, get over it, stop feeling sorry for yourself, or mind over matter. It would be understood that that individual needs a cast, probably needs crutches, and needs time to rest for the body to heal itself.
Yet, as a society there seems to be a widely accepted belief that someone struggling with depression or other mental health issues is weak, needs to have more faith, needs to think more positively, and that treatment or help for mental or emotional struggles is not necessary. This widely held belief has prevented many people from reaching out or seeking help, and has thus caused many individuals to condemn themselves for feeling depressed. People dealing with depression generally view themselves as weak, typically have a lot of negative thoughts and perceptions towards themselves, and frequently struggle alone with their thoughts and feelings because of the negative societal stigma.
As a therapist, I have asked my clients who are facing depression, “if your friend was sad, felt down, or was going through a rough patch in life, what would you say to that friend?”. Consistently, the responses I have gotten are, “I am here for you,” “You are a beautiful and worthy person,” “You are not alone” – responses that depict understanding and compassion. The question then begs, why are we capable of giving helpful and loving feedback to others who are struggling, but unable to show that level of kindness and understanding towards ourselves?
If I have the flu I do not tell myself that I am unworthy or pathetic; I take Advil, drink hot tea, and give my body the rest that it needs. So why can I not treat myself with this same level of care and compassion when I am struck with the “depression flu”? Why can I not tell myself that it is alright to feel sad, that perhaps I need to rest, that I need to take a self-care day and surround myself with things and people that make me happy? The solution is to have compassion and grace towards ourselves when depressed thoughts and feelings flood the mind and body, to have the grace to be understanding and non-judgmental, and to grant ourselves the permission to feel down. The idea here is the concept of being one’s own best friend.
What advice would I want to give my friend if he/she was feeling depressed? What encouragement would I offer that could be helpful and supportive to my friend, and how can I make sure that I am giving myself that same level of love and understanding? This is where positive mantras and affirmations come into play. You are allowed to ask yourself, what do I need right now, and what do I want to hear? For example, do I need to hear a general idea of everything is going to be ok, or this too shall pass, or do I need to hear something specific like, I am stronger than I think, or I have gotten through this before, I will overcome this. Whatever it is that you need to hear, write it down in a journal; write it on stickers that can be taped to your mirror or above your door; find a way to read these mantras and affirmations to yourself every day or when you are going through a hard time. Be your own best friend.
Our thoughts and internal dialogue have so much power over our feelings, our perceptions, and our reactions. By equipping ourselves with positive self-talk and encouraging mantras, we can learn to be that best friend to ourselves in troubled times, and we can work on breaking down the negative stigma around mental health by allowing ourselves to practice compassion and understanding.
Written By: Dalia Fullingim M.S., LMFT