Most people who know me know that I was a cheerleader in high school. I loved it. Our squad did tons of stunts I would have never thought possible to be part of until we trained every day to get the flips and throws and other acrobatics to performance level. Another thing I really liked about cheerleading was revving up our fans to get or keep a good thing going or amp up the team spirit to get things going.
These days, many of my friends and colleagues know that I still consider myself a cheerleader. While I can no longer do the stunts, I love cheering other people on when they’ve accomplished something. And most of my colleagues know that I cheer for accomplishments big and small.
I am a cheerleader for others.
I am not so much a cheerleader for myself.
While not getting to the details too much, I don’t like significant parts of who I am. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say I bet many others who suffer from mental illnesses feel the same way. That is unless therapy (and likely meds) have brought you to a place of sustained peace with who you are, and you can practice self-compassion most of the time.
One of the reasons I’ve gone back to therapy is because deep down I know that while I hate the Anxiety that is still with me and how it bleeds into many thoughts about myself, I have a lot to cheer about Michael. I’ve got a lot of work to do. My therapist sent me a link to an online tool to measure my level of self-compassion. Let’s just say the scores pretty much suck.
The good thing is therapy is helping a lot. Instead of calling myself stupid for the errors and stumbles I make (which only leads to or increases my Anxiety), I’m starting to say, “Well, that wasn’t the smartest thing, Michael,” or “How can I keep such-and-such from happening again?” In other words, I’m catching myself when I stumble, and rather than internally identifying with the negative action or poor thoughts about myself, I am flagging the instance of negative actions or poor thoughts as what was not optimal. Put differently, I am starting to catch myself, making the criticism less about my identity and more about a specific action. This is a tectonic — and extremely positive — shift.
Doing this, I am told and have read, is a skill. Just as I trained to do stunts as a cheerleader in high school, I need to train myself in self-compassion. I need to practice catching myself when I make mistakes and note that that’s just part of being human.
Oh, and another thing I need to start doing is being a cheerleader for myself.
I imagine I am not alone in these struggles.