Do you ever struggle to understand why you behave a certain way, especially if it's not in your best interest? Do you have a hard time treating yourself compassionately when you behave in those ways?
I know I've wrestled with this, and I think others do, too. After all, if we know behavior will impact us negatively, why do we do it? The more this happens, the more it seems to invite guilt, resulting in beating ourselves up over our choices. Why can't we learn the lesson and stop acting that way?
Yet it also seems clear that self-recrimination doesn't work. I tried it many times in relation to my eating, but the results were usually the opposite of what I wanted. I'd feel so guilty and awful about myself that I'd turn back to food for comfort, deciding that since I had already blown it anyway, why not continue down that path?
Perhaps a better approach, then, is compassion fueled by the understanding of what we’re truly feeling or experiencing.
For instance, many people eat for comfort, to relieve stress or anger or any number of other emotions. If you pause to consider why you’re feeling a certain way, you might better understand where those emotions are coming from. Maybe you’re stressed because of a difficult family situation, or angry at the way someone treated you, or hurt because someone forgot an important event.
Understanding won’t necessarily make those feelings go away, but it could allow you to be more compassionate with yourself and decide how you want to react.
Once you recognize why you’re reaching for the chips or cookies or ice cream, maybe you’ll choose to take a bath, listen to music, watch a funny movie, or talk to the person who upset you. Or maybe you’ll still decide to eat, but without the guilt, only the understanding that you are in need of comfort, and you are eating food you love and enjoy.
Having made that choice, you can then move on to meet your life from a place of compassion and acceptance for yourself, rather than fueling the cycle of guilt. Life is short, after all – I’ll take compassion over guilt any day.