A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘self-compassion

I tend to be more critical than I’d like, but—like many people, I suspect—I’m especially critical of myself:

  • Instead of simply cleaning up any mess I’ve made when I’ve dropped things while trying to carry too much, I’ve wished I were less clumsy.
  • When I’ve struggled with my weight, I’ve looked in the mirror and felt disgusted by my reflection.
  • And when I’ve worked and hoped for what seems unlikely or even impossible, I’m tempted to call myself an idiot.

Why are we so hard on ourselves? Because our culture warns us not to think too much of ourselves in case someone feels the need to take us down a peg, do we take ourselves down two or three?

Deep down, we know that scolding ourselves or calling ourselves names does nothing to help us change for the better.

We can take heart in reading this quote from Remade for Happiness: Achieving Life’s Purpose Through Spiritual Transformation by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen:

You will shake off your faults more readily when you love God than when you criticize yourselves.

When we criticize ourselves, we’re likely to feel small, incompetent and unable to change; when we love God, we want to walk in his ways.

We need to remember that God loves us just as we are—flawed and human—but he wants us to become more like him day by day. For some, that means learning to let go of anger and to forgive; for others, learning to stop using food, cigarettes, alcohol or other things as a way to deal with our feelings; for all of us, learning to be merciful and compassionate to ourselves.

I pray that we would grow less critical of ourselves and, in so doing, grow less critical of and more compassionate toward others.



I love Christmas music. But only in December and just after New Year’s Day, and not all day long.

Add the constant holiday soundtrack to store announcements and the chatter of our fellow shoppers, and we may struggle to hear ourselves think about anything else but the pressure to shop and bake and mail Christmas cards and wrap gifts before time runs out. Or about the fact that we’re not ready for the holidays.

Compassion may loom large in our minds during the Christmas season, but self-compassion? Probably not on our to-do list, I realized this morning during my yoga class, as the teacher reminded us to be compassionate toward ourselves.

We need to remind ourselves that our homes don’t have to be design-show perfect. We don’t have to make or address our greeting cards by hand or include a lengthy Christmas letter, unless we want to, of course. We don’t have to prepare a huge family meal by ourselves. And we don’t have to feel guilty about these things.

Christmas is a time to come together with friends and family. It shouldn’t be a time to run ourselves ragged to pull off the perfect holiday, which isn’t even possible. Just read about the first Christmas in Luke 2:4-7*:

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Joseph and Mary had to complete their journey just before the birth of Jesus. And the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, wasn’t born in a palace but in a stable—the humblest of beginnings.

So why do we need our celebration to be over-the-top, best-Christmas-ever perfect?

Christmas card

A greeting card my great-grandpa sent my great-nanny during World War I.

Once upon a time, I would have been very stressed to be in the position I’m in. I haven’t decorated my home for the holidays yet. I haven’t started my holiday baking, either. And I realized this morning that I haven’t gotten my son a Christmas ornament yet, which is something I do every year. But I took a breath, looked at what I have done and what I need to do, and realized that everything could be finished, especially with some help.

What could we do to make our holiday preparations less stressful this year?

  • Ask one or more family members to help wrap gifts. I used to help my mom wrap gifts for our extended family. We could also use gift bags or boxes if wrapping is a challenge, and it would make it easier for others to help.
  • Have young children put stamps or return address labels on Christmas card envelopes. I enjoyed helping my mom address cards as I got older.
  • Let our children help cut out or put sprinkles on cookies or cut up ingredients for fruitcake, depending on their age. I used to help cut up the glazed cherries for fruitcake when I was a child, and my son likes to help with the butter cookies (cutting them out as well as eating them).
  • Share the cooking duties with family members. My family is contributing different parts of the Christmas dinner this year: my mom is cooking the turkey and making the buns, I’m preparing most of the vegetables, and my dad is making the caramelized potatoes. Maybe I’ll ask my husband to help make a pie!

If we remember what we’re preparing for—and it’s not a camera-worthy holiday extravaganza—we may just put less pressure on ourselves and find it easier to keep our Christmas spirit.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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