Today I’m going to be talking about self-compassion and bringing it into all aspects of our lives.
What does it mean to truly embrace ourselves as we are? And how can we cultivate this ability?
It’s been shown that one of the top regrets of the dying is “the wish to have had the courage to live a life true to oneself, rather than living the life others expected of me.”
This is not just true for the dying…For most of us, suffering comes from a feeling that we’re not living and loving fully—and that we are not reaching our full potential.
The tapes that run through our minds can be filled with negativity about ourselves without our even being conscious of these thoughts.
This negativity and feeling of being unworthy or “less than” interferes with our relationships with others, our sense of joy, our productivity and every aspect of our lives.
We are all familiar with compassion. It is that feeling that arises spontaneously within us when we bear witness to the suffering of others, and that triggers a wish in us to take action to alleviate their suffering.
Similarly self-compassion is about becoming aware of the experience of pain in our bodies, minds, thoughts, and behaviors—and then taking steps to quiet or eliminate that pain.
Do you notice that it’s easier for you to tune into the suffering of another…than your own?
Probably because of cultural influences, practicing self-compassion is generally more challenging than tuning into the pain of another. It can be misconstrued with being selfish or self-centered—when in fact self-compassion gives us the wherewithal to be more present, available for and with others.
I’d like to digress for a moment and explain the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion.
Self esteem is a global sense of self worth. We feel self esteem when we have performed or done something well—something special—above average. Self-assessment or self judgment is a part of of self-esteem.
This can create a system for competing, meeting certain standards, looking and acting in certain ways—which can run interference with our well-being.
We get these messages from our families, from our friends, and of course from the media. If we do not measure up in these ways something is wrong with us and we will not feel as valued or lovable.
This can be profoundly threatening to us because everything in our wiring is about longing to belong and be part of the greater community.
Feelings of loneliness and self loathing in more extreme circumstances can be perpetuated and It is often the unspoken pain that we endure day in and day out — all the while longing to fit in.
Self compassion differs from self esteem in that it is about relating to ourselves kindly even with our flaws and imperfections.
According to Kristin Neff, self-compassion has three components:
- Treat yourself gently and with kindness like a dear friend.
- Witness the humanity that you hold in common with others. We are all imperfect and we share the human experience that connects us to each other.
- Be mindful with what is happening moment to moment without judgment and quieting that self critic that resides within.
Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life can heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights. including ourselves in circle of compassion—not just others.
Three way to practice self-compassion:
1. First recognize—bring up to your conscious mind whenever you find yourself thinking unkindly towards yourself. Notice what you are experiencing in that moment. Then allow yourself to engage in a conversation with the part of yourself that you’re rejecting. In doing so create the space to move from self aversion to self acceptance and love.
- Look beneath the surface at the shame and disappointment you might be feeling—and find a way to make peace with that experience. This practice is about coming to terms with painful feelings about oneself. Seeing the truth and moving through the difficult feeling is the only way to get to the other side of self love and compassion.
2. Put your hand over heart and after a few breaths, repeat a phrase like: “I love myself unconditionally.” “I am love.”
3. Take a few deep breaths and relax the body from head to toe and repeat:
- May I be safe
- May I be well
- May I be happy
- May I live with ease
What do you do to strengthen your feelings of unconditional self-compassion?
As always I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and feedback.