Many people find that they are much kinder to others than they are to themselves. One of the obstacles to developing self-compassion is doubting its efficacy. These doubts are often founded on well-intended fears about being selfish or indulgent —and it’s useful to discern for ourselves whether we are choosing to be hard on ourselves for some useful purpose or whether we’re actually caught up in a habitual pattern of self-criticism.
Here are some of the common misgivings:
—Self-compassion is a pity-party
Self-compassion doesn’t mean we over-exaggerate our suffering and dissolve into a woeful mess. Mindfulness —the ability to let go of thinking and shift our attention to something present like the breath, physical sensations or the world around us— is a key component of self-compassion. Research shows that self-compassionate people are more likely to entertain a variety of perspectives rather than focus on their own distress (1) and are less likely to ruminate (2).
Continue reading “Misgivings about self-compassion”
When things go wrong, how do we treat ourselves? What comes to your mind?
—Perhaps some self-criticism, being hard on ourselves?
—Feeling isolated or avoiding others for fear of shame?
—Ignoring our own painful feelings and distracting ourselves with entertainment, food, drink?
If, in recalling and reading this, we find we’re feeling a bit down about ourselves, we could place a hand on our heart or give our arm a reassuring rub. We could tell ourselves it’s okay, we’re all hard on ourselves at times. And we could perhaps encourage ourselves with some self-talk like, “May I be kind to myself in this moment.” Taking a moment to really feel that warmth and reassurance.
Here, we just practised all three components of self-compassion.
Continue reading “The three components of self-compassion”
This reflection exercise can help us understand if there’s a difference in the compassion we show to others and the compassion we show to ourselves.
During this reflection exercise, we’ll be reflecting on how we treat our friends and how we treat ourselves. We can do this either with pen and paper, or without.
You’ll need to put aside about 10 minutes to do this.
“Be gentle with yourself, learn to love yourself, to forgive yourself, for only as we have the right attitude toward ourselves can we have the right attitude toward others.” ~ Wilfred Peterson.
Taking a few moments to sit and settle into the present moment. Making ourselves comfortable. Allowing ourselves a few easy, deep breaths… with a sense of ‘letting go’ on the out-breath. Then allowing the breath to settle into a natural rhythm. Closing the eyes and scanning through the body from head to toe, noticing any areas where we’re subtly holding onto tension… and bringing some kindness to those areas. Perhaps even offering ourselves a silent inner ‘Awww…’, allowing our heart to melt a bit with each ‘Awww.’ If we like, using the out-breath as an opportunity to let go of tension a little bit more each time.
Continue reading “Being a friend to myself: a self-reflection exercise”
This short practice trains us to bring mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness to our suffering.
If we’re currently experiencing emotional discomfort or suffering, we can work with this.
Otherwise, we’re invited to think of a situation in our lives that is difficult, that is causing us stress. Calling the situation to mind, and seeing if we can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in our body.
Now, saying to ourselves:
1. “This is a moment of suffering…”
This is mindfulness, acknowledging what is happening.
Other options include:
“I’m feeling stressed.”
2. “Suffering is a part of life…”
Continue reading “Self-compassion break”
Simply put, self-compassion is treating ourselves in the same way we treat a good friend.
Maintaining a good quality friendship requires us to do a few things… to pay attention to our friend, to be kind to our friend and to see ourselves as equally important.
Would you enjoy the friendship of someone who never called you, was always critical of you and saw themselves as better than you? What about someone who avoided you, was scared of you and felt inferior to you? In either case, very difficult to maintain a genuine friendship.
Now imagine the friend who is always there for you, who always supports you; someone with whom you have a lot in common. Easy to be their friend, right? Not just rewarding and fun, but genuine friendship often brings out the best in both people.
Imagine if we could befriend ourselves in the same way? This is self-compassion, and like having a good friendship with someone else, relating well to ourselves also brings out the best in us.
“By practising self-compassion regularly, we can
turn a harsh inner critic into a supportive inner coach.”
Continue reading “What is self-compassion?”