A Safe Place for Stories

There’s something called self-compassion. She’s the Cinderella of identity paradigms–scorned, ignored, and sent to scrub everyone else’s feet. Her evil step-sisters are Self-Esteem and Self-Hate.

Keep that in mind.

I want to tell a story. It’s the story of Story. A child sits snug in bed. His parents tucks his blankets around him. They tell him tales of ugly ducklings who become swans and little princes who grow roses. It’s all nonsense, of course, but to his brilliant little mind, nonsense is not without meaning. When he goes to sleep, the child dreams seeing others for who they are and not how they look, of making friends in unlikely places, of being true to himself, of loving and being loved. He dreams these things out of nonsense.

What does self-compassion have to do with children’s dreams of nonsense?

“Story is the language of experience, whether it’s ours, someone else’s, or that of fictional characters. Other people’s stories are as important as the stories we tell ourselves. Because if all we ever had to go on was our own experience, we wouldn’t make it out of onesies” (Lisa Cron, Wired for Story, 2012, 8-9).

Stories allow us to experience distressing events and circumstances from safe places.

Why do I bring this up as a writer? Because if stories are best received in safe places, then they are likely best conceived in safe places, too.

You see, writers aren’t particularly good at being nice to ourselves. Another writer I know, once told me that writers’ mental states seem to pendulum between absurd egoism and crippling imposter syndrome. We think we have something to offer that the whole word should like, while at the same time we’re convinced we have nothing to offer and our efforts are laughable and fake.

The result? We writers can be horribly cruel to ourselves–ruthless even in our successes, and excruciating in our failures.

“I should write more.”

“I should write faster.”

“I should make more time.”

“This story is going nowhere.”

“This is stupid.”

“What am I doing?”

“I’m not smart enough-talented enough-connected enough-rich enough-

“I’m not enough.”

Sound familiar?

We are in a world ruled by self-esteem. Self-esteem defines us by how we are different. What can we do that they can’t? What can we do better? How are we worse? How do we measure up? Thus, self-esteem, by it’s very nature, isolates us from those around us. Even if we’re deemed the best, we are left very much alone.

What is self-compassion, then? Self-compassion is understanding. It is forming connections with others through their experiences and understanding we are not different. We’re not strange. We’re not hated. But mostly, we’re not alone.

“When we feel safe, we are in the optimal situation to do our best” (Kristin Neff, The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion, 2013).

You are amazing for working hard.

You don’t have much time, but you love writing enough to fit it in here and there. I know it’s not as much as you think you should write, but you are doing something and that’s doing wonderfully.

Writing is hard. Wonderful, but hard. I know. And I know you love it and hate it. That’s okay too. You love it for it’s potential and you hate it because you think you’re holding yourself back. You’re not. You are holding yourself together, and that’s all you need to do.

These are my thoughts to myself. This is my safe place. This is my self-compassion. This is the mindset I’ll cherish so I can write nonsense into dreams of seeing others for who they are and not how they look, of making friends in unlikely places, of being true to myself, of loving and being loved.


One thought on “A Safe Place for Stories

  1. Beautifully written! Your post resonated with me. At times I find it difficult to deal with self-esteem, self-love, self-compassion but I am slowly getting there. I’ve realized that my limitations are harming no one but myself.


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