Self-Compassion and Limit-Setting

The Shifted Librarian photostream on Flickr

I think there are actually two aspects of self-compassion: the ability to nurture oneself and the ability to set limits with oneself. But when I think of self-compassion, I tend to focus primarily of the nurturing aspect.  For example, when I take a bubble bath, I view that as being self-compassionate. When I let myself rest when I’m tired, or when I take time to meditate—I see those things as practicing self-compassion.  And usually, since I tend to be overly serious and driven, it is the nurturing part that I most need to work on (as a side note: Greg said I must be the only person who puts a clock by the bathtub—I say, how else will you know when to get out?).

Right now I have several ideas for more blog posts to write. I have a gift certificate left over from my birthday, and I’d love to go shopping. It’s rainy and dreary outside, and curling up with the dogs on the couch reading sounds appealing. Not to mention, I just received in the mail some new Sharon Salzberg meditation CDs that I so want to try.  BUT, I also have a mound of paperwork to go through. I know you probably have this image of me that I’m super organized…that my “mound” is probably just one little pile. Not true. I literally have papers back from last summer still in multiple piles. Piles that have gotten so high that the contents from individual files have slid out all over the place; Piles that have migrated from the tops of the desk onto the floor.  The kicker was today when Greg said, “I can’t find our ‘Really Important Papers’ file.” Things have gotten out of hand.

I’ve always prided myself on being organized. And I’d be the last one to be described as a procrastinator (I always studied for tests and wrote papers way before deadlines). The truth is, I do procrastinate. I procrastinate by working. Then I can feel virtuous even as I’m procrastinating! I put off the mundane paperwork and housecleaning so I can pursue my creative interests, such as writing. While it feels good in the moment, when I walk into the rooms with all the piles, it’s unsettling, and I tend to keep a lot of doors closed.

In Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, she devotes whole sections to organization and getting thing done. She writes, “I was astounded by the dramatic boost in my mental energy that came from taking care of neglected tasks.”

So, right after I find the perfect picture to go with this post, I’m diving in to the piles of paperwork. And you know what, I think setting limits with myself will actually be the most self-compassionate thing I can do.

(P.S. In case my parent’s are reading this with alarm, while I was writing, Greg did find our “Really Important Papers” file.)

9 thoughts on “Self-Compassion and Limit-Setting

  1. I just wrote about the same thing, and smiled wryly as I read this post, and another’s! It seems to be a theme. The need to self-nurture – to stop pestering ourselves to grow, and allow the air, sun, water and nourishment to actually get on with it. Really enjoying your blog.

  2. Greg said I must be the only person who puts a clock by the bathtub—I say, how else will you know when to get out?

    Thanks for the laugh. Why not get out when you feel you have had enough or the water gets cold? I love this stage of my life where I can do just as I please trusting my soul to guide me in what is good for me. Learning to love oneself is the first step in learning unconditional love, THE life lesson. How can we love others when we have not learned to love ourselves? Important message you have here and well written. BTW, I once threw out six weeks of mail that had accumulated while I was on sick leave. Not one person complained that I had not answered their correspondence. I figured that if any of it was important, they would contact me again. Not one reply. Had to laugh at that one. have a day of laughter and love! hugs, pat

  3. Cultivating my witness through meditation helps alot with my self-nurturance (both aspects actually). Watching without any pressure to change or push. (challenging) Just watching my thoughts and observing with non-judgment. Well I try anyways:’holy .wanting to flee house again and escape (e.g from doing taxes) ’ ‘holy. wanting to eat gummy bears again and turn off (from everything present) The ‘holy’s are impartial btw. 😉 I’ve had paperwork issues too (mounds trust me) but for me it was de-cluttering that set some limits. This big occasion happened last month before i put my home up for sale: steam cleaning and a huge de-cluttering rampage. I spent a whole day in my rec room. It was definitely the worst. I shipped books and clothes and trinkets and furniture to the little store (local opportunity shop).
    It really does feel like nurturance now in a huge cathartic way- although I never thought of it like that before (so thank you). Your ideas remind me that setting limits nurtures the space for presence. It’s easier I mean to be present without so much stuff around;”neglected tasks” taking over. Plus it made my mom is beyond ecstatic which nurtures my heart too.Thx again for your blog-your ideas/thoughts are loving & helpful!

    • I like this: “Setting limits nurtures the space for presence…” and I like the impartial “holys” 🙂 I’m going to try that! Have a great day!

  4. “I think setting limits with myself will actually be the most self-compassionate thing I can do.” This really speaks to me, and to a connection that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to explain when I headed over to your blog today. I’ve been following your project, and I found myself compelled to start chronicling my own version of a self-compassion journey. I’ve decided to start drinking less and living more. I’m going to chronicle my efforts to take better care of myself and pay more attention to my needs rather than rush from one thing to the next, distracting myself with wine and beer. It’s a bit of an experiment and I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but you can check out my first post here: http://drinkersinkerswim.wordpress.com/. Thank you for the inspiration, Barb.

    • Yes, I will go and read your first post right now. I’m thrilled I inspired you. Thanks for letting me know!

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