Self Compassion

Think of a time when someone you care about was experiencing suffering. Perhaps they were sad or angry or deflated or afraid. What did you tell them to show them how much you care about them? To show them you are there for them and they are validated in whatever emotions they are feeling?

Now think of a time when you were feeling sad, angry, deflated or afraid. Did you show yourself the same care and concern that you would to a loved one? Or did you berate yourself, ruminate over what you did “wrong”, tell yourself to “get over it”? Maybe you tell yourself you’re “weak” and you can’t “handle” whatever circumstance it is that you are currently in. Maybe you even use that degrading and loaded word to describe yourself, “crazy”, questioning that there is something wrong with you for feeling this way.

It is not uncommon for humans to show tremendous compassion to their sons and daughters, parents, spouses, siblings, friends, etc. and have nothing but criticism for themselves, even when they need compassion, forgiveness, love, and care the most.

Whether we have made a mistake in an important presentation or aren’t feeling positive about the way we look after dusting off our bikini from the winter, we tell ourselves things we would likely never say to someone we love.

Self compassion is a difficult skill to learn, but it is a valuable tool to have in your mindfulness tool kit. The more you begin to practice self compassion in your daily life (think of how many times you may treat yourself poorly in any given day, from chastising yourself from spilling coffee to running late), the more you can begin to use it when you need it the most.

Another positive of self compassion is that, when something more serious does occur in your life, you can begin to use self compassion right away to begin to mindfully sit with whatever your situation is without trying to change what you cannot.

The first step of self compassion is to acknowledge and accept whatever you are feeling and experiencing in that moment.

Do you feel grief? Loss? Sadness? Anxiety? Fear? Anger? Hurt? Name emotions that you feel and simply answer “yes” or “no.” Once an emotion has been named, simply set it aside and move on to the next emotion you are experiencing.

It is important to keep in mind that this exercise is judgment free and does not delve deep into analyzing emotions or experiences. It is simply acknowledging the current state you are in free of judgments, analysis, or attempts to change the present.

Once you have a better understanding of what it is you are currently experiencing, you can begin to give yourself compassion over the suffering you are feeling.

Again, you would likely never tell a friend to “suck it up”, or “move on” or that they are “crazy” for feeling how they are in that moment. Instead, you might tell them how sorry you are that they are experiencing this, how sorry you are that they are experiencing all of this emotional suffering.

Give yourself this same compassion. “I am so sorry you are hurting and feel alone and lost right now. That is a terrible feeling. I know this experience is hard for you.”

Once you have shown empathy and compassion to yourself, remind yourself that you are not the only person who has felt pain or loss or grief or rejection or whatever it is you are feeling.

We find a sense of calm and strength in knowing we are not alone. 

Tell yourself, as you would a loved one: “You are not alone in this. You are not the first person to have suffered this way, nor will you be the last. You are not alone in your hurt.”

The act of taking a step away from all of the overwhelming emotions rushing through our minds and bodies, of naming them and setting them aside, and following that with compassion, empathy, and remembering we are not alone in suffering, can have a significantly calming effect.

Practice self compassion in your daily life. Practice it on every day thoughts and moments where you are overly self critical. Practice it when you are experiencing emotional suffering. Practice it as often as you can and it will eventually become a response to difficult emotions.

It is a seemingly simple tool that can be truly life changing.

“Empathy is…

communicating that incredibly healing message

of, ‘you’re not alone.'”

~Brene Brown

Run on, my friends.


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