How Discomfort Made me Kinder to Myself

I’ve been writing about my personal #campaignforkind in my monthly blogs here at KOM this year. Thanks for reading.

I’ve talked about how kindness is contagious and how it pays back in rich, feel-good dividends. Back in March I was turning the tables on myself and outing that I’m one of the main causes of the lack of self-kindness in my own life. Can you relate? I wrote about unkind self-talk, unfair criticism and holding myself to standards higher than I do my loved ones, or strangers for that matter.

Awareness was steadily building for me. But with all paths, treks and passages come the surprises: the moss-covered rocky parts, the boggy bits and the stalagmite-dotted rock walls. The uncomfortable terrain that tests your resolve to move on is inevitable.

Under a false presumption that self-kindness will always make a person feel better, I pressed eagerly into April and May with an ambitious task list in hand. (I love lists, don’t you?) It was time to commence unburdening myself and shifting my load of responsibilities. This after all, is the year I’d promised myself that since my kids had reached major milestones now and I had achieved a special birthday number, I could begin to spread my wings…

travel more,
write longer,
research wildly,
wander farther,
take on major book projects.

To get to the items on the task list though there were some big-ticket items in the way. I needed to sell the home I was in. So I packed, purged and prepped. House on the market – check. I needed to select, prioritize and commit to the writing projects I will work on, pressing other temptations to the side. I made the projects mind map – check. And there were other check marks about eating well, being in nature more, reading material and attending events. I put tick marks beside so many.

I was heeding the call! I was putting myself first! I was making headway! I still felt rotten.

At the end of each day I couldn’t celebrate progress because at my core, I was still feeling the agony of letting my boundaries be violated. With the large items taken care of, self-care was going to require that I listen to a voice that lives even deeper inside me – the one I ignore best.

Because I’m a memoirist you’d think that getting deeply revelatory would get easier. You’d think that as a writer who tells stories about how big hearts can ease suffering, I’d find writing about my own heart easier to do. Those assumptions turned out to be as incorrect as the one I mentioned earlier – giving yourself the kindness you deserve is supposed to make you feel good, right? Not necessarily so, and not always immediately.

This became obvious as I grimaced and groaned while doing something about how certain situations were making me feel. When the kindest thing you can do is put up, reinforce or defend a boundary, then you’re in for discomfort. I’m not a fan of discomfort. Which explains why I prefer cold places to warm ones, why I prefer trails to the gym and why my very expensive juicer sits unused in the pantry while I go the juice bar down the street. (If I wanted to be unkind to myself I could list some other things my aversion to being uncomfortable explains, but since this is KOM I’ll bite my pen nib.) I needed to find the nerve to ask a friend not to say something I found offensive. I had to pull away from a person whose friendship felt like it was always taking, never giving. I needed to say “No, but Thank You” to spending time with people, projects and plans that drained me, upset me and left me feeling robbed. And I did just that. Many times.

I first wrote about my inexperience with boundaries in August, 2016. I’m still learning. I’m still suffering. I suffer in the aftermath of putting up a boundary because people often react by creating conflict around it. I know their reaction is about their discomfort, too. They are uncomfortable because I’m acting in a way they’ve never seen before. Managing conflict is a natural outcome of boundaries – think walls and wars, castle ramparts and trebuchets-launching fireballs.

I’m uncomfortable telling people how they make me feel. It’s that simple, but its source runs deep within my story, my history and me. The key learning point for me is that being uncomfortable is part of my self-kindness journey. Knowing that I am learning a new skill, I have a bit more patience with my squirming and I edit my self-criticism a little more kindly. Discomfort passes just as the strenuous parts of the hike do, one step at a time. As I walk on I leave the muddy footprints behind.

  Patti M Hall is a writer, memoir coach and ghostwriter whose memoir writing inspiration brand lives at  Online Patti creates inspirational content for aspiring memoirists, wannabe writers and folks who love putting pen to paper.  Patti's real home is in Canada where she lives with her two giant sons and house full of golden retrievers.

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