Sometimes we put pressure on ourselves to have a ‘better-than-human’ response to things and criticize ourselves when we don’t measure up to that aspiration or don’t live it consistently. This is particularly the case for those of us who are high in empathy and place hefty expectations on ourselves to be constantly aware of the needs of others and our affect on them. I’ve always contended that the higher one is in empathy, the more difficult it is to set interpersonal boundaries–“Where do I end and the other person begin?” sort of thing; or, “If I intuitively or tangibly know that another person wants or needs me, I can’t pretend I am blind to that, so I must act on it.”
When we do set firm, possibly out-of-character, boundaries, or don’t perform our social role in the way we have boxed ourselves into, it can feel jarring. The self-compassionate response is around empathizing with our humanness–all the emotions, thoughts, actions– and, from there, allowing genuine motivation lift us to our potential. This might look like checking in with yourself around why you might have, for instance, had a strong, unpleasant verbal reaction to something a friend said and then empathizing with why that might have been the case (e.g., “My friend touched on a raw spot with those words and I reacted strongly because I got hurt.”)
Experiment with playing outside of the box you have made for yourself to live in (and others have reinforced over the years) where you have siphoned off true parts of yourself and take note of what responses you get from others. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that you have an increase in energy and this more ‘authentic’ way of being–where sometimes you’re not as giving or loving or patient–is appreciated by those you interact with.
I think as long as our intentions are to be kind towards ourselves and others, we all work best alone and together when we’re dancing in our real, complex, human selves.