I am currently entering round 17 of embarking on greater self-compassion. I’ve studied it, practiced it, but for some other reason or another—boredom with the practice, lacking time to commit, or caring for my toddler daughter—I have not sustained it long term. The greatest break was when I incurred a back injury in 2011, and later a foot sprain in 2012. I was in so much chronic pain I simply could not slow down to meditate or recite positive affirmations—my present state felt too bleak. Not to mention the anger I felt for not being able to do some of my favorite activities like dancing and yoga. So, instead of positive affirmations I was practicing negative feelings toward G-d, as well as myself.
But the point of this essay is that the first time I was introduced to positive affirmations was during my yoga training when I was 24. Why did it take so long?
This morning I was reciting a new set of positive affirmations I got from the book Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff, PhD, and I wondered to myself, “What would life be like if these were the words we were reciting daily as young students?” Going to a religious Jewish school we prayed (aka davened) for 30-45 minutes every morning, reading the text of the morning prayer (Shacharit), which expresses gratitude to G-d for all that He gives us and for His greatness in creating the world and His hand in history.
These sentiments are great, but not in exclusion to learning self-care—how we maintain our sense of okayness in the world, our feeling of significance, respect, and love for ourselves. Which is a necessary tool for how to maintain a healthy self throughout development and one which I poorly lacked in my 20s. I think if self-care and self-compassion were cultivated in me when I was young, I would have had an easier time applying it in my early adulthood. Instead, I had to learn it for the first time during the most complicated years of my life.