Before we touch on why self compassion is so important, I’d like to give a quick reminder about what self-compassion is not from my previous blog. I have enjoyed reading a good amount of Ph. D. Kristen Neff’s work, who is an expert on self-compassion. Based on her research she tells us that self-compassion is not about pitying yourself, it’s not about being self-indulgent and it’s not about developing self-esteem. In our modern day society self-compassion has a poor reputation. However, it is what is needed most when we are suffering. Also, there is no difference between having compassion for ourselves and having compassion for others, they are one and the same. Think about how you take care of people you love. Do you take care of yourself in the same way?
Allow me to break it down for you…
When we are struggling with a situation or a feeling, we often place judgement on ourselves or on others. Treating ourselves with kindness, care and understanding rather than harsh judgment is vital. Calling ourselves names, telling ourselves that we are not good enough are a couple ways we place harsh judgements on ourselves. If we are struggling we need the opposite, we need kindness. Kindness is more than just giving ourselves a manicure or flowers. When we are kind to ourselves we want to comfort ourselves. We want to alleviate our suffering and actively soothe our self. The idea is to do whatever you can, in the moment you are suffering, to help yourself. That’s not just what you do, but more importantly, it’s what you are thinking about yourself.
- Common human feelings
We often think “why me?!” when we are suffering. Part of being human means we are going to feel like we are suffering sometimes. Life is imperfect. We make the mistake of creating the notion that things are supposed to go well and we get upset when it doesn’t go the way we think it should. I think on some level we all know that life is not perfect. However, in the moment when we had someone reject us or we just blew it at work or with a friend, we can think “Why am I the only one…” You may have even told yourself, “It’s not supposed to be this way!”, I know I have. We can think that it’s abnormal for things to go wrong. We tend to disconnect from others when we feel this way. We close ourselves off and that isolation continues our suffering. The takeaway here is that it is not just you who judges yourself; that is a common human connection. Part of having compassion for yourself is knowing that suffering is part of being human.
Painful feelings don’t feel good. We know this. When we are suffering we tend to run away from them because painful feelings hurt. We have to be aware of our suffering in order to give it compassion. As a tell many of my client’s the only way to heal is to go through it, now around it. Addressing out painful feelings is the way through. Mindfulness allows us to notice our suffering and “be” with painful feelings as they are. Surprisingly, suffering is not always so obvious. Some of the worst pain is caused by self-judgment; being self-critical. Saying to ourselves, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not smart enough”, I’m not pretty enough”, I’m not witty enough” – we place ourselves in the role of a self-critic. Please don’t be confused here. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve our selves, that is a beautiful life-long journey. However, don’t improve yourself at the expense of who you already are. We tend to give our self-critic a lot of attention but we don’t give the part of our self that needs compassion nearly as much attention.
When things don’t go right in our life, or in the life of someone we are close to, very often we go straight into “fix-it mode” without acknowledging the hurt first. We don’t recognize that we need a little care and compassion to get ourselves through. When we see a loved one hurting it can feel uncomfortable for us and straight away we try to fix the problem so we can all feel better quick. However, most people know how to fix their own problem and when they are venting what they are really wanting is for us to recognize their suffering, not to fix it. My children often remind me of this truth. The times when they are feeling sad or angry, they will recover much more quickly if I repeat back what they tell me rather than saying, “It’ll be okay” or “you’re alright”. They know inside they will be okay. What’s more helpful to all of us in the moment is recognizing how we feel. That can sound like, “it sounds like you felt left out”, or “you wanted “x” and you didn’t get it, I’m sorry that happened to you”. When we have this kind of mindful and compassionate conversation with our self we are able to heal much more quickly.
To sum it up, we cannot fully move on from feeling hurt until we give ourselves compassion for what we experienced – not minimize our pain, dismiss our pain, avoid our pain or judge pain. It is then that we really can develop full love, full acceptance and full kindness towards ourselves, towards others and even touch others how to help themselves. I look forward to helping you in your journey towards self-compassion and acceptance. Contact me now for a free phone consult to get you back on track to growing in your compassion and confidence.