The Pangs of Feeling Different
We all need self-compassion for being or simply feeling different. No matter how hard we try to hide or fight it, at some point, we all feel like there is something about us that makes us stick out. And, this may not be a great feeling.
Maybe, we are too short. Maybe, we are too tall. Maybe, the colors of our outfit are too bright. Maybe, they are not bright enough. Maybe, we are the smartest person in the room. Maybe, we feel like the dumbest. Maybe, we follow the herd too much. Maybe, we do not follow the herd enough. So many Maybe’s, it is no wonder that we feel vulnerable sometimes.
There is nothing wrong with being different. In fact, it is what makes us so special. It is what allows the world to be beautiful, unpredictable, and ever evolving. However, when we are feeling tired or stressed, and our differences lend themselves to social judgment, they do not feel so great. Because our unique qualities are so precious, they deserve to be protected. Thankfully, since we cannot control others’ reactions, all we really need is a healthy dose of self-compassion.
Steps To Securing Some Self-Compassion
Here is what you do. First, acknowledge the vulnerability. It will not be hard to spot. You will probably feel the looks of others lingering in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Second, notice how imperfect they are. I call this the unmatching sock test. It does not have to be a sock, but I try to find something slightly imperfect about their outfit (because it is impersonal and harmless). Noticing this imperfection reminds me that we are all imperfect.
We tend to judge, when we feel at risk, such as wanting to fit in with a group or be accepted by a stranger. I remember a time, when I have felt this fear, and noticed judgment come up in my own thoughts. Then, I allow this feeling to pass. Once it has passed, I ask myself whether my actions are in line with my core values. If they are, I continue to behave, as I have been behaving, and I give myself credit for persevering through judgment.
My Own Experience
I find this practice especially helpful at new gyms. I have many friends at my home gym, and the people there are really great people in general. In other gyms, I am new, and a lot of people are both territorial about their gyms, and sometimes in need of validation. These ingredients are perfect for a whopping dose of judgment.
Like all people, I do not like to be judged. I also love to be at the gym, and need to find a way to persevere. This practice is made that much more important by the fact that I definitely stick out. I love colors and innovative strength training and boxing techniques. I also dance in between sets because I love music, and I love to dance. I have been caught on numerous occasions silently mouthing the words to a song that has gripped my attention.
I come by all these qualities naturally, and they bring me great well-being. For an hour to two hours a day, I can get completely lost in a world without striving, and simply enjoy the bliss of riding the wave of an inspiring song or a guided movement. When I am full of sleep, I could care less what people think or have to say about my behavior. When I am tired, I am vulnerable to their criticism, and sometimes feel it deeply.
Practicing self-compassion for so long has not made me better than you. I also have to acknowledge this suffering, and follow the method. It is not always easy. Sometimes, I even require the support of a friend. Secretly, I am inspired by all of you to live my life as sincerely as possible, which helps a lot. I give myself credit for persisting while I am at the gym, and after I leave. To this day, I have never left feeling ungrateful for this work, and I hope you never do either.
365 Days Of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 119. In The Books.