Practice Self-Compassion

By Jana

February 14, 2023


I had a whole different post planned for today until I woke up and realized it was Valentine’s Day. (Thank god my husband remembered. It would have slipped right past me.) Anyway, I decided to push my plan back a week and spend today talking about practicing self-compassion. This is a practice that I’m new to. It’s funny because, prior to Lyme disease and going through therapy for PTSD, I thought I was compassionate towards myself. In some ways I was, but not in some of the most important ways.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have realized that I was fairly unkind to myself as I battled Lyme disease. It wasn’t intentional, I simply wasn’t aware that I was doing it. Since then, I have learned to love my body. And as always, I want to share some of what I’ve learned in hopes of saving you some of the hardship I experienced.

Learn from my mistakes

When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease, I had been sick for so long that I attacked that damn bacteria with a vengeance. It’s as though I believed I could shove my body along and insist that it get better, and it would just listen to my insistence. Well, that doesn’t work. Your body is going to heal at its own pace. Your job is to love it and care for it as best you can.

My mistake was running away from my body. I was so afraid of it that I ignored what it needed most. I didn’t listen. Instead, I forced it to charge ahead. I treated my body the way a drill sergeant so stereotypically treats its new recruits. My biggest mistake was increasing dosages way faster than I should have. I had this idea in my head that in order to be a good patient I needed to charge ahead full-steam. Unfortunately, I believe this is a cultural belief, instilled in us from the day we’re born.

Hard work is encouraged no matter what. Don’t call in sick unless you’re literally dying. “I walked to school with no shoes on, in the snow, uphill both ways.” In other words, shut up and quit your whining. Unless you had it as bad as I did, wipe away those tears and keep trudging. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. If you don’t turn that frown upside down your face will get frozen that way… You get what I mean. We live in a society that treats illness and emotion as weakness. Therefore, when I was sick I pushed and pushed. I didn’t cry. When my body felt weak and sick, I viewed this as a sign that I was working hard and so, I worked even harder.

I feared my body

The day I stopped looking in the mirror is the day I abandoned my body. Effectively, I was no longer practicing self-compassion. I remember that moment so clearly. I walked into the bathroom and I no longer recognized the person staring back at me in the mirror. Her skin was ashen and wrinkled. The eyes reflecting back at me were void and hollow. Dark circles set up shop under them. My hair was greasy and unkempt. After only a momentary glimpse of this sickly person inhabiting my body, I quickly shut off the light and walked away. Oh, if I could go back in time and do that differently!

I became so afraid of my body that I could no longer hear what it needed. I turned those sensors off because they terrified me. Due to this, I believe my mind actually made whatever symptom I was experiencing worse. My fight or flight had my adrenaline pumping so often, that all I ever felt was panic. It’s difficult to treat yourself with compassion when all you can think about is fighting or crashing through the forest at top speed to escape a predator. So, let’s learn how to slow down and practice self-compassion.

What is self-compassion


I know it sounds pretty self-explanatory but I think it’s worth breaking it down real quick. For this, I turn to the master teacher of Emotions, Miss Brene´ Brown. Her definition of compassion says that it is “a daily practice of recognizing and accepting our shared humanity so that we treat ourselves and others with loving-kindness, and we take action in the face of suffering.” Another definition calls compassion a “virtuous response that seeks to address the suffering and needs of a person through relational understanding and action.” Are you noticing a theme here? Compassion includes action. It requires a desire to do something to help the suffering of another. Never does compassion say “better than” or “I can fix you”. I love this definition!!


Now, what is Self? According to the American Psychological Association’s dictionary, Self is “the totality of the individual, consisting of all characteristic attributes, conscious and unconscious, mental and physical.” I love that the definition includes “all characteristic attributes”. That means Self includes everything that makes you, You and not someone else. So, if we put the two together to fully understand Self-compassion we get:

A daily practice of recognizing and accepting the totality of what makes you, You by treating your Self with loving-kindness. When your Self  is suffering you take action to address your self’s suffering. Never compare your Self to others or claim that your Self should be able to fix itself. Relax, be gentle and cultivate a relational dialogue with your Self. In other words, be kind to your Self and take action to lessen your self’s suffering.

Practicing Self-Compassion

So, what does this look like in the face of Lyme disease treatment? In my mind’s eye, it looks like a mother doting over her child after he/she skinned his/her knee. She bends down and wipes the tears away, kisses the boo-boo and picks up her baby. She then gently cleans the wound, blows on it, maybe gives it another kiss then puts a cute band-aid on it covered in puppy dogs or penguins. The image almost makes me wish I was a child again who just skinned my knee. If only to feel the compassion and loving-kindness of my mother. It begs the question, “why do we not care for our Self the way a mother or father cares for a child?”

What if the next time you walk into the bathroom, instead of turning away from that sick person staring back at you, you look him/her deep in the eyes and say, “I love you and I’m so sorry you’re hurting. You are so beautiful and strong. I’m so proud of you. Is there anything I can do to help you feel better?”

When you take your pants off at night to change into your pj’s and notice how dry and wrinkly your skin looks, look on them with compassion. Sit down and gently touch your bare legs. Rub some lotion on them.

When you take a hot bath grab a washcloth, get it good and wet, then place it on your back and squeeze the water out. Do this over and over again, feeling the warm water gently trickle down your spine. Look down at your body as you soak and be grateful for the millions of processes going on to heal your body. How can you manifest that gratitude in that moment?

Before you increase the dosage of your medicine, hold it in your hand and ask your Self if its ready for more. “Are we ready for the next step or should we wait another day or two? There’s no rush, we can move forward when we’re ready. There’s no judgement if we’re just not ready for more today.”

Are you simply exhausted. That’s okay. Curl up, tuck yourself in. Gently brush your hair back from your face and imagine lovingly kissing your cheek. Sing yourself a lullaby until you sink into dreamland.

There are a million ways to practice self-compassion

Basically, close your eyes and imagine what love looks like to you. When you imagine gentle, loving-kindness what does that look like? Now, how you can manifest this on a daily basis? Maybe it’s your favorite song playing in the background while you prepare your medication. Or a lovely lavender scented lotion to caress into your poor dry legs and arms. Whatever self-compassion looks like for you, take the time to offer it to your Self. Most importantly, Be Kind to your Self. Be Gentle with your Body. And Love your beautiful Mind. Keep fighting Lyme warrior.


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