Let the Project Begin

via flicker, vvonstruen

In exactly one month, on February 1, 2012, I will turn 50 years old. If I had to pick one word to describe my life so far, it would be “tortured”. Okay, that sounds a little melodramatic. What I mean is this– I’m never satisfied with myself. I frequently think I haven’t accomplished enough. I easily become overwhelmed with emotions that I feel I have too little control over. I’m sensitive to the point that it’s painful. I’m prone to despair, alternating with diffuse anxiety. And to top it all off, I don’t have a lot of fun in my life–mostly of my own choosing. When I read Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I skipped the chapter on fun.

Oh, and by the way, I’m a psychologist. There’s more than a little shame that comes from thinking that all of my training and experience should have made me a bit less of a mess by now.

Let me also tell you I’m a self-help book junkie. I remember reading The Power of Positive Thinking after finding it on my grandmother’s bookshelf at the age of twelve. Since then, I’ve been hooked. I am usually reading about three psychology books at once, and I’ve written a few, as well. Most of the books I’ve written have been on shyness and social anxiety, issues that have been quite personal for me.

Last summer I came across a blog, The Shyness Project, which was a one-year project that the author and my now friend Brittany, undertook to overcome her crippling shyness. She said she’d never been successful at following through with her goals before because she tried to undertake too many things at once. So she asked herself, if she could choose only one goal to focus on in the coming year, what would it be? For her, without a doubt, she knew it was her shyness that was holding her back. Brittany’s blog and project has been a huge success, and she’s an inspiration to me.

As 2012 approached, I asked myself a similar question. Where should I focus my energy? I blog at Psychology Today about shyness (and will continue to do so), but it’s not as much of a personal problem for me now. Despite my quiet temperament, I can do what I need and want to do.

Well, the title of this blog gives it away. I decided that focusing on increasing self-compassion would be the most important thing I could do to ensure that when I turn 51, I’m not still describing myself as “tortured”.

I don’t have this project all figured out, and I guess that’s at least part of the point. And I feel a little selfish and even indulgent for starting this. Hey, there are starving people in China and I’m going to spend a year trying to like myself more. But it’s thoughts like those that I’m talking about. Not nice.

In one of the books that I’m going to use as a resource, Self-Compassion, author Kristin Neff opens the first chapter with this quote:

“This kind of compulsive concern with ‘I, me and mine’ isn’t the same as loving ourselves…Loving ourselves points us to capacities of resilience, compassion, and understanding within that are simply part of being alive.”  –Sharon Salzberg, The Force of Kindness

I’ve always believed we learn from each other’s stories. I’d be honored to have you join me in my journey, and share your comments, thoughts and feelings along the way.

To be notified of new posts, head on over to my Self-Compassion Project Facebook page and click “Like”. (It’s also on the sidebar, but no one ever sees it there.)

19 thoughts on “Let the Project Begin

  1. Yayyyy I can’t wait to read this all year!!! I’m so honored to have inspired you and so happy to have befriended you!! :) I know you’ll get a lot out of this project and so will others!

  2. I’m hooked! You’re also humble and transparent. Two great qualities for life change. Signed, A fellow blogger who shares February as a birth month and is just a couple of years ahead of you on the calendar :-) DM

    • Hey, I think Brittany’s birthday is in February, as well. We’ll have to party online :) Thanks for your kind comment. I love the word “transparent.” At times, I feel vulnerable for sharing so much, but I know it’s what connects us all as humans.

      • There are risks for being so transparent, but the payoff is worth it and then some. Charles Swindol wrote a book several years ago titled “Dropping Your Guard”…it had to do with the whole idea of living life w/o masks. .I inhaled it and never looked back. :-)

  3. Loved reading this post Barb- your words also express so much of what I feel! I appreciate your candor and openness and I look forward to sharing in this adventure by following your blog. Self-compassion is an incredibly relevant topic. It’s the only way we can tap into authentic compassion for others. I can think of nothing the world needs more of than true compassion. Thank you for starting this blog! Colleen

    • I wish our paths crossed more often, Colleen. Hope you’re doing well. Thanks so much for reading and your thoughtful comment.

  4. Hi Barb,
    Congratulations on your worthy project! I’m looking forward to see the directions your heart and mind take you. Your candor is refreshing. My hunch is you are in good company. The overdrive of our culture is often cover for that sense of “I am not enough-ness” so many people feel. This compelled me to write the post Why Do We Continue to Believe that Self-Compassion is Self-Indulgent? http://wp.me/pxJUg-nx – which “happily” guided me to your new effort.
    Wishing you a year of great discovery!
    PS Those in great need everywhere on this planet will be better served by people who are more self-empathetic and compassionate – kindness comes in many forms.
    Louise

  5. Wow! I think this is a wonderful idea. Maybe if we all loved ourselves a little more, we might love others more too. I discovered Brittany’s blog though one of your tweets and have been inspired by her journey. Your project looks just as fascinating and just as relevant for me at this time of my life. I will follow with interest :)

  6. BARB, I THINK THERE IS VALUE IN ALL OF US, WHETHER WE ARE QUIET OR LOUD OR IN BETWEEN. THE WORLD WOULD BE SO BORING IF WE WERE ALL THE SAME. WE ALL HAVE SO MUCH TO OFFER, JUST IN DIFFERENT WAYS. I AM PROUD TO HAVE YOU FOR MY SISTER-IN-LAW AND HAVE GOTTEN SO MUCH INSPIRATION FROM YOU PVER THE YEARS. GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR NEW BLOG.

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  8. Hi Barb,

    I was doing some research online re: self=compassion for a book I’m working on about clinician’s management of countertransference and came across your project . . . Best of luck with it, and let me know if I can help in any way. I’m a psychologist in Boston. BTW — I just recently connected with Chris Germer, a psychologist also here in Boston who is very involved with self-compassion — has a recent book out on it. You might check in with him.

    All best,

    Mitch Abblett

    • Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I have one of Chris Germer’s books. I would like to go to one of his and Kristin Neff’s workshops sometime.

  9. Pingback: Are You Your Own Worst Critic? « pasadena therapist

  10. I didn’t find you until someone re-posted you on FB on July 29. Looking forward to reading more!

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