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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.
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