The parts of you that can’t be measured
One of the very first things to happen, when you enter this world, is that you’re measured. The doctors and nurses measure your height and your weight, often even before you feel the comfort of your mother’s arms.
And that measurement continues as your life progresses. At school – you are continually assessed. You get marks for academic achievement and you get points for sporting performance. And as you get older you learn to measure yourself. It goes way beyond performance appraisals at work. We’re obsessed with how we measure up against our peers, who earns the highest salary, who has the fastest car, who has the best defined abs. And social media fuels this measurement. Every time we see a beautifully plated meal on Instagram, it’s really hard not to compare it to the soggy sandwich that you just scoffed down at your desk.
We are so used to judging ourselves that we often forget to relate to ourselves with any humanity or compassion. We forget about the part of us that can’t be scored. The wild part of us that doesn’t fit into the boxes, that doesn’t care so much about being perfect.
As humans we like to control things, judge them. There’s nothing that makes us happier than putting labels onto things and organising them into neat little piles. This obsession extends to ourselves. It’s so much easier and more efficient than having to deal with the messy, scary, shameful reality.
That’s why when our boyfriend leaves us we open up our big judgey flip file and point to the section that shows that our thighs are a little wobbly, our style points are on the low side and our lighthearted banter game is undeniably lacking. In short, instead of have sympathy for ourselves, we blame ourselves.
Now, just for a moment, think about how you would speak to a close friend if their boyfriend left them. Think about the things that you would say to them, but also notice your tone of voice. How would you address them? How would you use words and touch to comfort them?
If you’re anything like me, there’s quite a difference between the way that you speak to yourself and the way you speak to the people you care about. Luckily we can do a lot to change these ingrained habits.
Studies by Dr Kristen Neff show that how you relate to yourself can have a huge impact on your wellbeing. Self compassion has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, stress, shame, and eating disorders and increase happiness, gratitude and life satisfaction.
Research on American army veterans showed that their level of self compassion was a better indicator of whether they would develop PTSD than the reality of what they had gone through.
So maybe it’s time that we stopped judging ourselves and started to pay a bit more attention to the parts of ourselves that can’t be measured. Those untamed areas can be dark and scary, but that’s where the magic lies. When you treat yourself with care and compassion, when you know that you’ve got your own back, when you offer yourself unconditional friendship, that’s when you’ll have the courage to venture beyond your comfort zone. Here be dragons, but here also be creativity, endless possibilities and a richer way to experience life.