The Face of Contempt | Part 2 of 2
Self-contempt has been my primary issue for years. Until I learned to have compassion on myself, it was almost impossible not to have contempt for others. Here’s what self-contempt has looked like on me.
Internal voices crank up.
- Self-destructive rants about how stupid I am; how much time I wasted today; how I ‘never’ seem to get it right.
- Sarcastic questions: What makes you think you’re so smart? So together?
- Comparison with others. This triggers self-loathing because I haven’t worked hard enough or smart enough; if I had, I would surely be where so-and-so is today.
Fear of being judged harshly shuts me down.
- I moderate my tone, words and body posture, trying to make sure you’ll like me—as though it doesn’t really matter whether I like or will stand with myself, as myself, not as someone I am not.
- I decide you’re right and I’m wrong. I really do need to sit down and shut up right now before I ‘make a fool’ of myself.
- I avoid risk altogether—which is, of course, followed by shame.
Fear of making a mistake takes over.
- This begins with sky-rocketing levels of self-consciousness and the need to check everything before I do or say it.
- I take a last-minute inventory of who’s present, and whether what I want to say or do will offend them.
- It doesn’t occur to me that not speaking my truth is already a hostile act against myself. Or that it doesn’t matter how awkward my words are, or whether I’ve ‘used the right tone of voice.’
Self-blame talk kicks in.
- Oh I’m so sorry! How could I have done or said that!
- This is especially problematic when I haven’t done or said anything for which I need to apologize.
- These knee-jerk responses seem to assume someone needs to ‘take the blame’ and that I’m ‘it’! I volunteer to be the problem I am not.
Messages from my body go unheeded.
- Time to eat! (This won’t take very long. Just be patient! Stop hounding me. It makes me irritable.)
- Time to go to bed! (I know, but it’s OK. I’m almost done with this sentence….)
- I deserve a personal day off! (It’s nice out today; we’ll just go for a quick walk later.)
- I need to say something right now! (Will you stop pestering me? I can’t be listening to you ALL the time!)
- I don’t like what you’re doing to me! (Well I don’t like what you’re doing to ME, either! Besides, it can’t be helped. That’s just the way it’s going to be right now, so calm down!)
- Why don’t you ever thank me for working hard on your behalf? (Isn’t it enough that I feed you and clothe you and make sure your teeth are brushed? What more do you want? Can’t you see I’m busy? You sound like an ungrateful little girl!)
- I’m tired of being ignored. (How many times do I need to tell you ‘not now?’ Can’t you see I’m busy?)
- Bodies have feelings, too, you know! (I’m not interested in your feelings right now. I have a deadline to meet!)
- If I can’t get your attention any other way, I’m going to get sick. (Stop making threats. I don’t respond to threats. Ever.)
Some responses I make to my body remind me of adult responses I got when I was growing up. I love my body; I’m grateful it’s in good shape. Yet when push comes to shove, it’s easy to treat it with disdain. Not worthy of my full attention.
Years ago I led a seminar on spirituality. One of the articles I read seemed off the wall. It said we should thank various parts our bodies for the hard work they do every day. Kidney. Heart. Liver. Muscles. Feet. You get the drift. I thought it was silly. Was this really spirituality?
The article invited me to try this out. I did, and was surprised by how powerful it was. I still take my body for granted and need a reminder. God created this intricate reality that makes it possible for me to be who I am. Why would I treat it with anything less than compassion, honor and gratitude?
Bottom line: When I’m not so contemptuous of myself, it’s easier to have compassion on others.
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 19 January 2015