There is no mistaking that the current COVID-19 pandemic touches us all. There are new or heightened worries about one’s health, loved ones, and stability. Some are experiencing loss and grief. Also, there are missed experiences and a general stir craziness many individuals and families feel. I’ve heard friends describe it as feeling like the rug was pulled out from under them. These changes undoubtedly affect our mental and emotional states. Just as it is important to be safe and take care of one’s physical health, our minds also need care.
The Inner Friend vs. Critic
“Either way, always maintain a compassionate stance toward yourself as God does. Self-contempt will never produce lasting, healing change in our lives, only love.” – Ian Cron, The Road Back to You
One of my favorite podcasters and Ennegram expert, Ian Cron likes using the phrase unconditional self-friendship as he explores personality, trauma, and healing. Unconditional self-friendship is an attitude towards oneself. It asks the question, “How can I respond to myself as a friend – as someone who cares, loves, and seeks to understand my feelings & thoughts?” This is an attitude towards oneself that is generous, patient, and reasonable. This friendship offers acceptance and kindness without the stipulations that you are ___________ enough (i.e. productive, impressive, attractive, giving, wealthy, spiritual, etc.). Instead, this self-friendship meets as you are.
Unconditional self-friendship is a vastly different attitude than the inner critic. The inner critic responds to the self with judgment, impatience, and unreasonable expectations. Why does the critic show up? The inner critic often pops up when faced with uncertainty and uncomfortable feelings like pain, disappointment, and anger. It is a response set off by insecurity and looking to correct or escape via blame. Unfortunately, this mindset is rigid and unfair. With more stress and also more time alone for many, there is an even greater need to practice the art of unconditional self-friendship. Below I name four suggestions to doing this.
Four Tips for Being with Yourself Right Now
- Emote sans comparison. Just as a loving friend would do, give yourself time to feel without judgment or comparison. I’ve heard friends say they feel like they can’t complain or feel bad for themselves when some individuals are going through something worse. However, you have your own very real experience. Your feelings are no less valid because of someone else’s. Perhaps take time to journal, dumping the heavy feelings onto a page. Cry if you need. Also, talk with a loving friend or therapist if you need. Simply give yourself time to feel.
- Recognize beauty. Balance is essential. Just as emoting is important, it’s also helpful to remind ourselves of what is good. Take a walk outside and admire the Spring beauty. Reach out to a friend or family member. Let them cheer you up and try and do the same for them. Laugh any chance you get. Set aside time to engage with a hobby or interest you enjoy as a nice mental break. Additionally, there is a lot of need in the world right now. In the midst of this pandemic, acts of giving and service can be wonderful ways of recognizing the beauty of our shared humanity.
- Adjust expectations. Daily life looks very different for most individuals. Therefore, your expectations of yourself and what you can accomplish likely needs to change. This may be a real challenge for the over-achievers (you know who you are) and perfectionists. It feels good to be in charge and tick things off of a to-do list. However, your list may need to change to accommodate new limitations or added responsibilities at home.
- Limit news consumption. There is an endless stream of Coronavirus-related headlines if you turn on the t.v. or check your news app. It can be hard to escape it, and it causes greater anxiety for most people. Since it is everywhere, do your best to be gentle with your mind by limiting how much time you spend researching and seeking out new information on the pandemic. You can stay informed without checking your phone for news updates every hour. If you work in the health care industry or other form of being on the front lines, you are already immersed in it. When you’re off duty, give yourself a true break and mind as much of a rest as you can. You need it.
I hope these tips are helpful as you navigate your own inner world while staying safe.
Thank you for reading. Learn more about Lydia and her practice here.