Compassion is a positive emotion that you feel toward others.
It embodies feelings of thoughtfulness, caring, a willingness to recognize a differing point of view without judgement, and acts of kindness offered to help ease their pain.
It also embodies the wish that they do not suffer, but understands and allows that suffering, failure, and imperfection are all part of the human experience.
When you feel and offer compassion, you reflect the wisdom that we are all connected on the level of our common humanity.
Like a river, life will flow opportunities to offer compassion toward you – maybe a friend confides in you about a disappointment, or you can see the hurt in your husband’s eyes when stepfamily friction causes pain and discomfort. Maybe someone in your family has suffered a loss.
Even if you engage in a contentious or disquieting interaction with someone, there is always the opportunity to chose to respond with compassion.
When you show compassion to others, they are more likely to reciprocate by showing more patience, forgiveness or compassion toward you.
Self-compassion = Self-care
Can you treat yourself with compassion when you are in the midst of pain, struggle, discord, disappointment or failure?
Are you able to offer yourself compassion when you are less than perfect, less then successful, or suffering in the midst of your own human experience?
Self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff, PhD explains it like this:
Self-compassion involves acting the same way [as toward others] towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
Self-compassion is the greatest gift of self-care you can give yourself.
Become the “watcher” of your thoughts.
In order to extend compassion to yourself, begin to observe your own thinking without judging or condemning it.
Too often negative thoughts about your behavior, abilities, appearance or feelings spin ruthlessly through your mind.
You’re hard on yourself.
You reproach yourself.
You blame yourself.
You’re angry with yourself.
You shame yourself.
All in the name of being truthful and honest so you can motivate yourself to change something you don’t like about yourself or your behavior.
But this strategy is doomed to fail.
You can not “bully” yourself into thinking more positive thoughts, feeling more warm and loving feelings or making shifts or changes in your behavior.
Self-compassion, offering tender, loving care to yourself is the balm that allows you to open up and grow beyond where you are struggling today.
What to do next to access self-compassion…
Resolve to improve your self-awareness.
Monitor your self-talk. Increase your awareness of the frequency of negative messages you been giving yourself.
Accept that this has been your go-to mode of thinking for a long time. That this is your default thinking.
Recognize that all that negative self-talk are merely sentences in your mind.
And, here’s the good news: ALL THOUGHTS ARE OPTIONAL.
You can always change these sentences. I can teach you techniques to make these changes.
In the meantime, intentionally offer compassion to yourself for falling into this time-worn trap of default thinking. For the tough time you’re going through. For all the struggle, and the pain you are suffering.
Having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept vulnerability as a universal human experience.
The reality of the human condition is that you will make mistakes, experience frustrations and disappointments, endure losses, not always live according to your values and fall short of your goals.
It’s inevitable that things will not always go your way.
This is the way of the world, my dear friend.
Allow your thinking to reflect this reality instead of criticizing or berating yourself. Then you will be able to offer compassion for yourself and others when t hings go wrong.
Cultivate the practice of self-compassion.
- Remember how a caring person spoke to you as a child or when you were in a time of need.
- Recall how you spoke caring and loving words to someone who needed you to be there for them.
- Remember the feeling of being with someone who cared about you.
- Think or speak kind, consoling words to yourself. Offer acceptance and comfort to your hurting self.
- Put a proverbial arm around your own shoulder and hug yourself with warmth and tenderness.
Self-compassion is not self-pity or self-indulgent.
Self-compassion is an expansive emotion It provides perspective and allows negative emotions space to be present without the need to banish them.
Self-pity tends to exaggerate the extent of your suffering. In the throes of self-pity, your own emotional drama narrows your perspective. It prevents you from seeing your issues in the greater context of your common humanity.
When self-indulgent, you allow yourself to buffer with substances and activities. Buffering prevents you from experiencing your feelings all the way through.
When you avoid feeling your authentic feelings all the way through, they will continue to haunt you. Avoidance causes more buffering to escape them. The cycle keeps repeating itself.
Self-compassion is the tool that allows you to be able to sit with your discomfort or pain and all the negative feelings they engender.
It is the one remedy that allows you to emerge from all the frustration, pain, disappointment and sadness without dragging it behind you.
Need help shifting from self-critical to self-compassionate?
Let’s take a closer look at what is hurting you. What you are telling yourself about it.
I’m ready and waiting to hear from you. To begin our conversation, click right here.
Want to take a free self-compassion quiz Kirstin Neff designed? Then click here.