Self-compassion, Self-Love and Self-Directed Kindness

We Can Change

“People never change.” I overheard a woman say this in a coffee shop a few years ago.

I could sympathize with her on this. I thought of some of the problems I had dealt with in my own life or problems I knew other people dealt with.

Human beings can get really stuck in their ways. We develop habits from our personality and life experience, and once we develop these habits, it can be really hard for us to do things differently.

This tendency to get stuck in our habits, especially harmful ones, can make growing older difficult. We look at self-undermining patterns in our life and feel like things will never change and that we are stuck with our worst selves for the rest of our life.

That can be overwhelming.

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Lately, however, I have developed a new perspective on people and their ability to change. I think people can change in a good way, and one of the reasons I think this is because I know how much I have changed.

I just celebrated a birthday recently, and I was thinking about how much I have changed for the better in the last five years or so. Here are some of the ways I have changed:

I gave up criticizing and shaming myself through harsh self-talk, and I now consistently act like my own best encouraging teacher and mentor.

I have started saying “no” to things and people that violate my boundaries and make me feel bad about myself. I am much better at protecting my boundaries.

I walked away from some situations that were harmful to me.

I began caring for myself, instead of fighting against myself, when I feel really tired, overstimulated and anxious.

I started this blog, and I have blogged over three hundred pages. What is even more important is that I have learned so much about myself and writing in the process.

I have learned to trust myself and my own intuition.

I have learned to appreciate my own unique beauty, and I have also realized that there is something better than beauty—it is that place we come to when we stop putting ourselves into categories like “beautiful”, “ugly”, “successful”, “unsuccessful”, “thin”, “fat”, and we honor our whole self in the moment we are in. This allows us to savor and learn lessons from all of our experiences.

I am much better about asking for help and asking for things I need.

I have greater confidence that Love will guide me and support me, even when things are really hard.

I began a breathing practice that helps me feel more grounded and has created a beautiful space in my life to be outside and walk more.

I began exercising more to feel powerful in my body, rather than to maintain or lose weight. It turns out that I love walking, and I went on a fourteen mile walk this summer! (Before this, the longest I had ever walked was six miles a few times.)

I have become a more compassionate and loving friend to myself and because of this, I have become a more compassionate and loving friend to others.

I am more confident that I can tackle challenges I face by taking them one step at a time.

And I am still in the process of changing. Human beings are always unfinished, always a work in progress. That means we consistently shape ourselves each day through the choices we make and the ways we respond to events in our life.

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How Does Change Happen?

These are just a few of the ways that I have changed for the better in the last five years or so, and I want to share them in case anyone reading this today feels like you are stuck and that you can’t change parts of your life that are hurting you.

The question is, how do we change?

I am not an expert on change, and so I cannot speak definitively for all people and all kinds of change. I am, however, somewhat of an expert on myself, and so I can speak about what helped me to change.

I experienced a lot of beautiful changes in my life when I started doing the following:

  1. I remembered that I have a precious light inside of me. It is my Wise Self, and I also think of this light as Love. The Love in me is the truest, most original, most real thing about me, and because of it, I am absolutely and unconditionally worthy of love right now. (You are, too.)
  2. I remembered that the Love in me connects me with the Love all around me—that is the Love in other people and the Love of the Universe (which is how I often think of God).
  3. I realized that I could trust myself, care for myself, and protect myself, and that by connecting with Love, I can figure out the wisdom I need for this moment.
  4. I realized I don’t have to do or be more. I just have to become who I already am by setting the intention to walk in Love each day.

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These ideas may or may not be helpful for you at this time in your life, and if they are not helpful, that is okay.

They are just the ideas that have helped bring beautiful change in my life. I find that whenever I operate out of Love, rather than shame and fear, surprising and wonderful things frequently happen.

But Can Other People Change?

I know I have changed for the better in so many ways in the last several years, but I also know that there are things that I can’t change.

I can’t change who the President is today.

I can’t change the gun violence that has happened in this year.

I can’t change all the cruel and rude people in the world right now.

Sometimes the fact that I can’t change these things really bothers me, and it feels like a cheap substitute to focus merely on the ways I can change myself.

I don’t have any simple answers to the problem of what to do when we can’t change other people or really troubling aspects of the world.

I have realized this, though: Every time I return to Love and allow it to change me or to help me become more of who I am, I see the world more clearly, and I see other people more clearly. The clearer I see, the more I know how to act wisely.

I don’t know how to fix the problems we are currently facing culturally and globally, but I know that if we are going to solve them, we have to be more wise than we are right now.

So I have an intention to seek Love and become wiser.

And perhaps by reading this post, you will want to seek Love and become wiser, too.

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How have you changed in a positive way this year? (Or the last couple of years?)

What is one thing you do to help yourself in a kind and gentle way when you know you need to change?

Postscript: If you enjoyed this post, consider sharing it on social media.

12 thoughts on “We Can Change”

  1. Wishes galore on your birthday! And power to the beautiful changes you chose to allow! I agree with your views on how change is possible.
    This has been my favorite debate for so many times – Do people Change? I always believed Yes they do. It is those who lock their view of other people, for them, nothing can change. If allowed with no judgment and healthy boundaries change can come in all people involved.

  2. I love this post and keep coming back to it today. Like you I believe I have fundamentally changed in the last year or so.

    ‘People don’t change’ I see as not referring to individuals so much as humanity in general, which continues to be destructive.

    1. I am so excited to hear you have had a good year of change, too, Friend! And I think you are right. Humanity in general gets stuck in some pretty bad habits. But we as individuals can always change, and perhaps this contributes to changing humanity a bit, too.

  3. Beautiful as ever, Shelly. One of the many things I have learnt from your blog is how to think better and stay calm in the face of political opinion that is contrary to my own. I have a tendency to react very emotionally, but I think I am in the very early stages of trying to understand that others have particular opinions because they seem the most reasonable to them. Trying not to be judgemental is a constant challenge. And balancing this with my own sense of right and being true to myself…well, that’s where it gets complicated. But being human is complicated, isn’t it?
    You inspire me to think better. Thank you.

    1. Ali, what an amazing compliment. I am still working on staying calm and thinking well myself in the face of political opinions different from my own. That is especially hard for me in our current political climate. You are so kind, and your blog inspires me to be better, too. I think it is part of what made me want to go outside more!

  4. I think the best way to bring about change is to “start by looking at the man in the mirror,” as our friend Michael Jackson said. By changing yourself I think that can have a ripple effect out into the world and initiate changes in other ways. Change is hard, but it is worth it in the end. Congrats to you on all the work you’ve put into improving yourself and your life!

    1. That is so right! We have definitely got to begin with ourselves, and I definitely think we can affect the world in a positive way. That is definitely my goal. Thanks so much for your kind congrats, Friend!

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