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Journal

Radical Self Compassion - Should we begin?

compassion Amanda palmer

A strange thing happened when I turned 50 earlier this year. As that half century arrived I became aware of all the other selves that still were stored inside me - and I became aware that I was really not very nice about them.

It seemed that there seemed very little point in growing to a point where I was happy in my own skin - as I believed I had done - if I was still being mean about all those past versions of me. I decided that needed to bring some radical compassion and love them with all their faults.

So I went on a journey back in time, deliberately digging out past selves, looking at what I say inside my head about my younger self

"I was an immature, lying, boastful child who, unsurprisingly, had few friends."

It is a judgment that I have tried to atone for all my adult life - becoming truthful to the point of bluntness, never mentioning anything I'm proud of for fear of showing off, worrying constantly about friendships. It is a judgement that has cast a great shadow.

But when actually recognised the judgement and thought about it - gathering factual evidence as I would when faced with something in the present, instead of listening to that inner voice - it all looked a little bit different.

I began school half way through Primary 1. I was four years old, a year to eighteen months younger than everyone else in my class. Precocious reading skills and a new baby at home joined together to make early schooling a sensible option.

So the judgement was right, I was immature. I was at least a year less mature than everyone else in class. Sadly being able to read books doesn't guarantee being able to read social situations. No wonder teachers found me difficult, I empathise with them, for I cried easily if told off, I was terrible at anything needing fine motor skills, I played 'sick' a lot, I bragged.

But then, when I think back to my own children, a four year old is quite different from a five year old, and, when changing schools as a teenager meant another bump in age gaps - a fifteen year old is very different from a seventeen year old. When you are getting into pubs and clubs with your fake ID you don't want a 15 year old tagging along. I see that now. The not being invited to nights out probably wasn't actually anything to do with me at all.

This evidence based version is bit different from my memories of the insufferable boastful child trying to get attention, the nerdy awkward teenager drinking way too much, way too early to impress her peers. It turned out to be really easy to feel compassion for past versions of me.

I wonder how many of us carry these judgements of ourselves - not of our present day selves, but of the past ones - and I wonder if that stops some of us from feeling wholly loveable.

For me being able to laugh about how wrong I had been, feeling compassion for that little girl, that teenager, clicked a whole load of things into place around friendship.

For me, the feeling unworthy of having good friends, the feeling of everyone else being too witty and glamorous and clever and nice to be my friend, that shrinking that had been at the core of my being, and as though at a click of my fingers, it just disappeared.

It has gone in a feeling of 'Oh sweetheart' and a virtual hug and a shedload of compassion like a cheesy reality show.

I would love to hear from you if you have found yourself harbouring similarly out of date views of yourself - either as a comment here or email me Jane@snapdragonlife.com

Tags: life

Comments: 2 (Add)

Fiona on November 22 2019 at 11:23

I read this & thought 'yes!' - I hated being a teenager, always being put down & mocked by my Mother, I was prickly & defensive & felt hopeless & useless. Those unkindnesses have made me a better parent & given me a great deal of sympathy for the sad teenager I was.

Jane on November 22 2019 at 12:23

Thank you for your comment Fiona - I do absolutely think that appreciating these things makes us a much better parent - empathising with our children, rather than passing down judgement;
Much love,
Jane

Snapdragon social

Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
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As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
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Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
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It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
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Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
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My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
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Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
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As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
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This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
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This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
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I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
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Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
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This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
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So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
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The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
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That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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What are you looking forward to doing today?
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At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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