Unloved Daughters and the Struggle for Self-Compassion

“What’s the deal on self-compassion and self-love? I was brought up to think self-love was a flaw, that it made you full of yourself and prideful, so I really don’t get why this has suddenly become a ‘thing.’ Where’s the line between being a narcissist and self-compassion? Is there one?”

There actually is. It’s true enough that “self-love” has gotten a bad rap in our culture, doubtless a holdover from the Puritan foundations that remind us that “pride goes before a fall,” which is part of the Book of Proverbs in the Bible. So let’s focus on self-compassion, which doesn’t invite confusion with being conceited or headstrong. Self-compassion can be seen as the opposite of the habit of self-criticism, one many unloved daughters unwittingly indulge in.

What is self-criticism? It is the mental habit of attributing failures or setbacks in life to your own character flaws; often, self-criticism is an internalized version of the things that were said to you and about you in your family of origin.

In most families, these statements about your essential nature and character not only pass as “truths” but are considered set in stone, and, often, one child who is labeled as lazy or unmotivated is contrasted with another who’s ambitious and successful. No matter how you were pigeonholed—as difficult, aloof, lazy, or dumb—the chances are good that you believed that it was true at some level; some daughters buy into the assessment fully, but for others, the belief is strong enough to create a wellspring of self-doubt.

What does self-criticism sound like? Here are some examples: “The relationship ended because he saw through me and realized I wasn’t good enough”; “I got passed over for the promotion because I’m not as smart or ambitious as the rest of the team”; “No matter how hard I try, I’m never going to reach my goal, because I don’t have what it takes.”

See the way there’s a cause-and-effect between who you supposedly are and a bad outcome?

Critical thinking and self-criticism

So, maybe you’re thinking to yourself that being realistic about your abilities and taking responsibility for failure—and, yes, even blaming yourself—might not necessarily be a bad approach. It isn’t, but that’s not what self-criticism is.

Securely attached people—those were loved and supported in their families of origin—do, in fact, self-assess after a failure or setback, but they don’t use their character or traits as the sole context. Instead, they weigh their own performance, along with other factors that may have contributed to the result; they ask themselves how they might have handled things better and factor in those elements of the situation they had no control over. That is a very different mental exercise than the automatic and largely unconscious devolution into self-criticism.

Leda de Zwaan gives coaching and healings to heal this mother daughter connection, but also healing the inner child and youth trauma’s. Please hot the contact button for more information.