Liz Gilbert on how to hold ourselves lovingly when life’s tough

Click on the link for this Facebook post by Liz Gilbert (of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame). We posted something from Liz not that long ago – and this feels important, so here is another…

People who come to this service are facing painful, difficult present and past experiences of many kinds. However – inevitably in our culture as it currently exists – those challenges are usually increased substantially by a lack of self care; by the idea that valuing or looking after self is ‘selfish’ or unacceptable; by harsh self-judgements and self-denigration. A huge element in the therapeutic process is for the therapist to offer and model loving holding, to create an environment where it is possible not only for a person to feel safe enough to get in touch with their more difficult experiences, but also to begin to explore and question their own brutality to themselves, and develop the ability to witness themselves with empathy and compassion.

So we are with Liz – let’s hold ourselves (and each other) gently.

Here’s the text, for those who have difficulty reading Facebook links:-

‘Dear Ones –

Shall we begin?

I’ve been going through a lot of big life transformations lately — moving through divorce, and loss, and the terrifying illnesses of loved ones, and outrageous upheavals of emotion — and none of it is easy.

Sometimes our transformations bring out the best in us, and sometimes they do not. When the ground breaks open because of an earthquake, you can be certain that everything — absolutely EVERYTHING — will be upturned, unearthed, or cracked open.

When you get cracked open, you will not always love what you discover about yourself. You wish you were a better person (whatever that means.) You wish you had handled this or that crisis with more grace. You wish you were stronger. You wish you were more certain about things. You wish you could go back and have that conversation all over again, and do it more wisely. You wish you were more forgiving. You wish you were more honest. You wish you were less judgmental. You wish you were less emotional. You wish you had figured things out sooner, or better, or smarter. Sometimes, you must face the truth that you have caused pain to yourself. Sometimes you have caused pain to others.

In short: You wish you were different. And wishing that you were different always, always, always hurts.

This is all very natural.

But we can choose in these difficult moments of self-doubt and regret and confusion whether or not we are going to hate ourselves for any of it…or whether we are going to practice self-love.

This is important.

The parts of yourself that you do not love are terribly vital, because they demand that you dig deep — deeper than you ever thought you would have to dig — in order to summon compassion and forgiveness for the struggling human being whom you are.

And until you learn to treat the struggling human being whom you are with a modicum of empathy, tenderness, and love, you will never be able to love anyone or anything with the fullness of your heart…and that would be a great shame. Because this is what we all want, isn’t it? This is what we came here for, right? To learn how to love each other with the fullness of our hearts?

Please know this: Whenever you withhold love from yourself, you are withholding love from the world…period.

We really need you to stop doing that.

The world has enough problems, without you withholding any more love.

Please understand that these difficult parts of yourself (the shameful parts, the regretful parts, and those episodes of your biography that are so spiky and troublesome and contradictory and embarrassing that you simply don’t know what to do with them)…please understand that these difficult parts of yourself are your ultimate teachers in compassion. Those parts of yourself are where you must begin learning how to love.

You guys? This is not a simple or straightforward moment in my life right now. There is a lot to sort through. There are a lot of parts of myself that I must examine now with unflinching honesty, if I am to grow.

I am willing to practice self-honesty. I believe in it, fully.


And here is what I am finding, as I age: I simply do not have the stamina for self-abuse anymore. Just can’t do it anymore. I dip into it sometimes for a moment or two, but I can’t stay there — my heart just isn’t in it anymore. I used to be so good at self-hatred and shame! I could attack myself for YEARS — drowning in an endless wave of self-criticism. But I’m out of shape these days, when it comes to self-hatred. I’ve lost that special kind of emotional endurance which is required for nonstop self-degradation and attack. I can’t do that to anyone else, and I can’t do it to myself, either. Too much practice in empathy and too many years of tenderness have ruined my chances to collapse ever again into the job of full-time shame.

I have loved all the hatred for myself out of myself.

(Well. Mostly, anyhow.)


And so now, when I suffer and struggle, I ask myself, “What part of you is hurting, Liz, and how we can love it — even as you are hurting?”

We must begin there — with the parts that we do not love.

This doesn’t mean being complacent. This doesn’t mean living in denial. This doesn’t mean that I have stopped trying to grow and transform. This doesn’t mean that I am excused from being self-accountable. This doesn’t mean burying my head in the sand, or telling myself lies. It just means: There is no part of myself anymore that I do not believe is deserving of love.

And that’s good news.

Because the only way I’m ever going to learn how to love any of you beautiful freaks — by which I mean all 7 billion of you gorgeous, unpredictable, troubled, weird, contradictory, struggling, devastatingly inspiring, broken, and perfect humans with whom I share this difficult planet — is if I can learn how to love my own freaky-ass self, too.

If I can accept me, Dear Ones, I can accept anyone.

So this is where we shall begin.


Be good to yourselves, my loves — today, and all days.

It’s all gonna be OK.



Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

Counselling Exeter since 1994

This entry was posted in abuse, acceptance, blaming, compassion, conditions of worth, core conditions, cultural questions, Disconnection, Elizabeth Gilbert, emotions, empathy, empowerment, grief, growth, guilt, kindness & compassion, love, Palace Gate Counselling Service, presence, resilience, sadness & pain, self, self concept, self esteem, transformation, trauma, vulnerability, working with clients and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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