In one of my creative journaling classes, we were looking at the unhelpful messages we send ourselves. We were so critical! We have been trained by our cultures to think that we are projects in need of renovation and improvement. “Every day in every way, I get better and better,” an elderly woman once told me she tells herself every day.

Into this mindset, and illness balls with a thud.

Hence, this promise to myself to be tender with weakness.

“What would you do if a friend told you she was thinking these things about herself?” I asked the class. Participants were quick to offer compassionate reassurances. We know how to support one another, but we rarely turn that mercy toward ourselves.

A story I often tell myself is that my life should be graceful and pain-free. This is why I get so out of sorts when my legs spasm or I can’t slot the wheelchair gently into place. No tenderness there; I grumble and growl.

Instead, I can pause for a minute and realize my perfectionist expectations. They are, after all, sweet and silly. Meeting my pain with curiosity and imagining golden light shining on it and penetrating my body lifts my experience into the sacred. Taking a breath and repositioning my wheelchair, I can try again.

Tenderness can bring peace to an otherwise troubled existence.

In your journal:

  • Make a list of unhelpful messages you send yourself. Answer back as though you were a compassionate friend.
  • What happens right before you get snippy? What story are you telling yourself? What’s another story you could tell?
  • How can you try a little tenderness?