“Nobody here needs to be fixed.” Those words were spoken by Dr. Steve Hickman when I attended a mindful self-compassion retreat. They were a balm to my soul. I grasped onto those words that day and never let them go. I allowed them to open the doorway to a whole new world I hadn’t experienced before. A world where love and kindness towards myself are natural and feel right. A world where other people have an inner mean girl/critic too. A world where I’m not alone in my suffering.
For a large part of my life, I felt as though I was alone on an island. I felt nobody understood me or what I was going through. I felt nobody would or could love me. I felt brokenand as though I needed to be fixed. Yet, everything I tried didn’t “fix” me. “If only I could fix this” was my favorite saying. Inside of me was a place that felt empty and broken.
That place? It was shame. A deep and abiding shame stemmed from my diagnosis of MRKH. I was diagnosed at the age of 16. That’s when I found out I was “different” To me, different meant that I wasn’t a real woman because I couldn’t have children, and my body had unique challenges. I couldn’t see a path forward from the life I always envisioned for myself – which was marriage and babies. I questioned my own womanhood because I thought that it defined me. So, my life became very dark, cold, lonely, and shame-filled.
Bullying impacted and deepened the shame
Annnd to add to it? I also experienced bullying after my diagnosis when I was in high school. I told a close friend what I was going through and she told other people. I was so embarrassed. One day, my friend, her boyfriend and his friend called my house and left a horrible mean message on my answering machine, making fun of me. They called me such mean names that I was so embarrassed, that I couldn’t even tell anyone, including my parents. I just erased the message and prayed nobody else heard it. It only deepened my loneliness and sense of shame around my body. It endorsed this shame-filled spiral and grief that I entered into. It was an endorsement in my mind that said nobody will love me and nobody will understand me….EVER! I operated in that space for many years, living in fear.
Self-Compassion made a difference..
Self-compassion opened my world to a new way of thinking and being. It helped me to understand the painful shame that I was experiencing. It allowed me to sit with it and offer myself kindness, instead of beating myself up. I learned that I beat myself up every time I called myself “different’ or thought nobody would understand me or love me because I felt as though I wasn’t good enough. All because of my MRKH diagnosis. I was terrified to let anyone know the real me.
Learning to speak to myself with kindness..
After learning self-compassion, when I thought or felt I wasn’t good enough, I started reaching for those words of nobody here needs to be fixed. Talking to myself with loving words of kindness, offering myself love and acceptance on a deep healing level through the practices and exercises of mindful self-compassion helped tremendously.
My life and the trajectory of my life changed as I embraced self-compassion. It is so meaningful to me that I decided during that retreat to teach mindful self-compassion. At the retreat, a new friend casually said “we should teach self-compassion” and it sparked life within me. I never thought it was something I could do. In fact, I thought “who me?” I didn’t believe in myself, but someone else did. But, I was so intrigued and passionate about the thought of helping others that I went to the info session and learned the requirements to become a teacher. Then, I went home and continued practicing self-compassion. I slowly applied myself to meeting the teaching requirements. It took a few years as I transitioned from the corporate world as a project manager and giving myself encouragement and changing my self-talk. Now, I’m so proud of myself for setting a goal and achieving the dream of teaching something that helped me change my life. I help other women like me because I know that when you really sink into the different ways to use mindful self-compassion and the other tools that I teach, it can be life-changing. I’m no longer in the corporate world today, as I am living my new passion by helping other women stop feeling choiceless and voiceless by empowering themselves to overcome fear.
What is self-compassion?
So, maybe you’re thinking..that sounds great, Heather..for you. I get it…I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It took a lot for me to get to a place of acceptance and understanding of myself and this diagnosis and to let go of shame. In fact, I went to an MRKH conference years ago, before I found self-compassion and I was appalled at how open the women were at sharing their stories MRKH…I even refused to take a picture with them because my shame was so deep. So yes, there’s a small part of me surprised I’m sitting here writing this post. I’m doing exactly what those amazing and powerful women did years ago. Sharing my story. I see how sharing your story is brave and beautiful. There is nothing to feel shame about. Why? Because nobody here needs to be fixed.
And, I really want to tell you about self-compassion. Maybe you’re wondering…what EXACTLY is self-compassion?
My favorite way to explain it is like this…imagine you’re sitting with your bestie and she’s telling you how she’s having a hard time. Maybe, she tells you that she really messed up at work. What would you do? You’d reassure her and fill her with loveright? You’d tell her how it was a mistake and that everything is going to be okay and that you’re here for her. Now, imagine that it was you. You made the mistake and you’re talking to yourself. Is your inner mean girl suddenly showing up? Is she giving you the business about how stupid you are and how she can’t believe you did that? Yep! Been there, my friend. So, it all comes down to learning to treat yourself the same way you would someone you love. It’s offering yourself the same kindness you will to them.
Now, I really want to tell you all about the amazing studies showing the benefits of mindful self-compassion. But, I’m a shoot it to you straight kind of girl. So, here’s where I’m going to lay out the real truth of why self-compassion is my thing.
You know that feeling when something isn’t going the way you want it to? And you’re disappointed, and you’re all up in your feelings about it? Self-Compassion is like this warm soothing blanket of comfort that comes along right when you need it and says – hey..it’s okay. I’m here for you. It’s the gentleness that’s been missing and the best part is that you don’t have to look anywhere but to yourself for it. It’s empowering. How incredible is that? To learn this skill that allows you to empower yourself AND be kind to yourself at the same time? I will take it any day of the week. And I hope you will too.
Before I go, I want to share with you one practice of self-compassion that you can take with you and practice anytime. It’s called supportive touch. It’s works because the body responds to the warmth of physical touch!
When you’re having a difficult time, see if you can pause. Try taking a deep breath and slowly releasing it. Place a hand on your heart..notice how it feels..feel into the connection of your hand on your heart. What do you notice? Does it feel warm and soothing? This is a way to offer yourself the kindness and care that you may be craving. If you find that you’re not connecting with a hand to your heart, that’s okay, that’s perfectly normal. You can try some other locations, such as placing a hand on your cheek, cradling your face from palm to cheek, placing a hand on your heart and one on your belly, hugging yourself by wrapping your arms around yourself, holding your hands or placing a hand on your leg or stroking it.
Any of these offer physical comfort and support when you’re having a difficult time. It is a way to reassure yourself in kindness. It may take time to get used to doing so and so I suggest giving it a try for at least a week and seeing what it’s like. One of my favorite ways to offer myself comfort is to place a hand on my heart and offer a few kind words to myself while doing so. I find it makes all the difference.
My wish for you is may you be kind to yourself.
Heather Klemanski runs holistic and spiritual meditations and retreats to connect with love, overcome fear and empower your intuition so that nothing holds you back. She is a compassionate meditation instructor with training in mindful self-compassion,mindfulness, laughter yoga, group motion, and retreat facilitation. Dedicated to inspiring others to wellness and connecting to their inner wisdom, she is an expert in relationship-building, balancing objectives, and enhancing well-being.
“It is only through my own pain and learning to listen to my intuition, meeting myself with self-compassion and mindfulness that drives me to reach out to help women like me. I love working with women to liberate suffering from fear and the “inner mean girl” – Heather