Stretching Self-Compassion

Get a load of this! My parents brought me home from the hospital in this stretchie. I’m sure I wore it well.

     My mother passed this on to me a few years ago when she was cleaning out her basement. I, in turn, gave it a home in my basement. I stumble upon it each year as I do my clearing out, and I’m surprised this has still made the “keep” cut. While it absolutely fascinates me that I was small enough to fit into this, it serves no purpose. I pull it out, look at it in amazement, and then put it right back in the bin. If I don’t get rid of it, my daughter will someday be guilted in to keeping it. She will pull it out of her bin and say to her grandkids, “Your great-grandma Jenny came home from the hospital in this.”

And I have to say, at that point, I don’t think anyone is going to give a rat’s patootie. 

     A while back, as I was deliberating whether to “keep or toss,” something struck me. I looked at the tiny, little stretchy and thought of my tiny, little self. 

     That made me think of a suggestion someone once offered me when I was trying to learn self-compassion. She mentioned that each time I wanted to berate myself with some negative self talk, I should imagine speaking the same words to the younger version of myself. 

      Why? Well, because normally when I hop on the ‘eff up train, the self talk isn’t too pretty. Maybe you can relate?

     “Damn, I did it again! I can never do anything right! I’m such a screw up! Idiot! Why do I even bother? Of course you did this!”

     Ouch. Sometimes it can get worse than that. We’ve all heard that our thoughts create our experiences, so what do you think those thoughts are going to do? Make me feel better? Make the situation better? Help me choose the next right action. Nope.     

   Here’s where the stretchie comes in. You see, if young Jenny made a mistake I would never speak to her that way, would I? Would I go off on how incompetent Little Jen is or how she can never do anything right? Would I say these things to a toddler? A ten-year-old?

      Absolutely not. 

Tucked away in a drawer as a visual anchor.

     Alright, maybe I would be uttering a little “serenity now” in my head, but let’s face it. We are human and we all mess up. I would breathe through it, tell “little self” she made a poor choice, and maybe brainstorm some ideas for rectifying the wrong. If an apology was in order that would be a good route to go, as well.

     What I wouldn’t want to do is drive my self worth into the ground, creating anxiety, and stunting growth.

     Let me give you an example. Back in February I had an appointment for my vaccination. Woohoo! Well, I checked the directions to Moorestown, scheduled it in my Waze app, pre-registered online, printed out everything I needed just in case my phone didn’t work, and put it in my bag.

        To make a long, convoluted story short, I wound up leaving my pocketbook at home. Yes, I drove 40 minutes to Moorestown without my wallet, which held my Identification and my insurance card. I realized this when I parked my car and was getting ready to go in. Wah-wah-wah.

     Would they even let me in? Would my much coveted appointment go to waste? Would I have to drive all the way home just to turn around and go back? Oy vey!

     Former Jenny would have jumped in to the negative self talk. “You a$$hole! Of course you did this! It’s such a Jenny move. You can’t do anything right!” That would have led to anxiety and tears, which never solve the problem.

     New Jenny decided she wasn’t going to go there. New Jenny texted her awesome hubby. “I left my wallet home but I’m going to see if they will still let me in anyway. I have the confirmation email.” Paul came up with the idea of texting me pictures of my ID and insurance card.

     Needless to say, it all worked out. Because of modern technology and pre-registration, I was able to get my shot. Treating myself with compassion, I breathed through it, and was not thwarted by the pitfalls of negativity. I even managed to score a Starbucks coffee for the ride home thanks to the app, enjoying a cuppa Joe and a good podcast.

     So that, my friends, is what the little pink stretchie helped to instill. It is an anchor of sorts, which tethers me to the idea of my little-girl self, which in turn breeds self-kindness and positivity. The repercussions of that are amazing.

     Now, drumroll please… I realized I am ready to let it go. I have practiced self-compassion enough to no longer need a visual reminder. I still trip up, but not as often, and I am able to get myself through.

     “But what about your great-great-grandchildren who might like a piece of their great-great-grandmother’s history,” is what some people have said to me. “Wouldn’t you like a reminder of yourself to be passed down through the generations?”

     Sometimes I think that would be nice. I have a little embroidered handkerchief from my grandmother and some cute little tchotchkes from my great-grandmother. I enjoy them and they don’t take up a lot of space. But infant jammies that are pulled out once in a blue moon? Meh. Not the best keepsake. 

     A better memento would be to pass on the lesson the stretchie taught me. I’d much rather leave a legacy of positive self-talk and compassion. Here’s to the next screw up!

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