Let Self-Compassion Flow
What is Self-Compassion?
Firstly, let's break down these two words. 'Self' means a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others. Compassion means having consideration, empathy and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. Combining these two words to make self-compassion means having the same level of compassion for yourself as you would towards a supportive friend or loved one. When someone you care about is down in the dumps, feeling terrible about themselves, and you are speaking to them – what would your approach be towards them in their darkest hour?
Self-compassion involves acting the same kindness and understanding towards yourself when you have a difficult time, fail at something, or notice something you don't like about yourself as you would for others. It is about relinquishing judgement and harsh statements towards yourself that only serve to break you down. Instead, it is about acknowledging the pain and finding ways to comfort yourself during this process so you can get back on your feet and do better. The foundation of self-compassion is recognising that you are human and, as part of that experience, is making mistakes from time to time.
The three cornerstones of Self-Compassion
Dr Kristin Neff has done extensive research on self-compassion and has come up with three core elements that make up self-compassion. These components are:
Self-Kindness – Self-compassion requires being sincere and understanding toward ourselves when we experience suffering, failure, or we feel insufficient. It means that we avoid ignoring our pain or flogging ourselves psychologically with self-criticism. This stage of self-compassion empowers individuals to distinguish that being imperfect, getting things wrong, and experiencing difficulties is unavoidable. Who are not alone in getting things wrong and making errors!
They, therefore, tend to be reasonable with themselves when confronted with painful experiences such as failure and disappointment, rather than getting angry and verbally or mentally beating themselves up. When life doesn't go according to plan, and we judge ourselves harshly for that failure, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. There is another option of pouring out self-kindness and empathy, which enables you to recognise your humanity and provide you with greater emotional calmness to take the steps needed to rectify the situation.
Common Humanity – We all experience a sense of frustration from time to time when an area of our life or character isn't matching up to how we would like it to be. When we are in the funk, it is often escorted by an irrational but inescapable sense of isolation as if you are the only person suffering from this issue or making mistakes in general.
The truth of the matter is that all humans suffer, struggle and get things wrong. The very definition of being "human" means that we are mortal, vulnerable and imperfect – all of us! Therefore, self-compassion includes recognising that moments of suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the shared human experience we all face in different seasons of our lives. It is essential to take a step back in those times of suffering and remember that we all go through this process, rather than something that happens to you alone. This awareness is paramount for removing the guilt and shame that comes with believing it is just YOU!
Mindfulness - Self-compassion also requires a balanced approach to our negative emotions, which can become destructive if left unchecked. When we can gain a sense of balance in managing our negative emotions, our feelings will neither be suppressed nor exaggerated. This balanced perspective stems from the internal process of relating our personal experiences to those who are also suffering. When this happens, we can put our situation into a larger perspective and make sense of our situation.
Mindfulness is also about the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, without harsh verdicts. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, amenable mind state in which you observe your thoughts and feelings just as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. None of us can disregard our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. As stated earlier, mindfulness is about balance, which includes not being "over-identified" with thoughts and feelings. We are over-analysing and become swept away by negative reactivity.
There are small steps that we can take each day to help us become more self-compassionate. I have listed eleven steps that you can start to take from today to become equated with this beautiful gift to yourself:
- Make time for yourself – Walk, write, read, make a date with yourself to do something interesting. Take time to get to know yourself and find out what truly makes you happy. Something magic happens when you begin to see yourself as necessary enough to invest quality time in yourself.
- Celebrate yourself – Take some time out today to acknowledge your successes and your gifts. It is so crucial for your confidence to give recognition to who you are and value yourself. Celebration is about rejoicing in something good or worthwhile that has been experienced or achieved. Write down three things about your life that you have reason to celebrate and meditate on those blessings.
- Silence your self-critic – Your self-critic is highly acidic and the arch enemy of self-compassion. It is time to divorce yourself from this unhealthy relationship. Instead, it is time to awaken and listen to your self-advocate who is alkaline. He fights for you and represents your best interests—the self-advocate recognising the qualities and assets inside you and validates your worth.
- Cultivate Forgiveness – Life is a balance and journey of pain and pleasure. In this journey, we need to learn how to forgive others and ourselves; otherwise, we carry too much baggage through life. That baggage is bitterness, which erodes the elements of self-compassion from within us. Forgive yourself and accept where you are today.
- Embrace Compassion – Cultivate compassion with others you are experiencing some form of pain. Compassion is companionship with others. We can, at times, be judgemental and harsh towards others because we don't want to be vulnerable or allow others into our world. The same also needs to be done for yourself.
- Respect Yourself – Have respect for your thoughts, values and feelings just as you would for others. Have respect for every aspect of your life because you are unique and one of a kind. We often look for respect and recognition from others, but it should always start from within ourselves. Respect that your views are different from others and walk your path.
- Nurture your soul and spirit – Embrace your creativity and unleash your gift to the world. Feed your soul with beauty, nature, fun and imagination. We are spiritual beings on a human journey. Take time to get connected to the divine within and feed your spirit. Take time to re-charge and re-vitalise, so your cup runs over. Only then can you manifest the fullness of your potential.
- Self-Acceptance – You are enough as you are right now. Have unconditional Self-Acceptance. Know that everything about yourself is lovely. You are worth celebrating, and others are happy to have you in their life. Tell your 'I am enough'! You don't need to be better; you choose to grow because you like developing. Love yourself and accept that you are lovable with all your flaws. Remove all self-hate and disgust that you have about yourself, your face or your body. In this very moment, embrace self-acceptance.
- Sack the Perfect Self – There is no such thing. Stop chasing the wind. It is time to sack this mindset that is making you labour without pay. This part of self that seeks perfection is fear in wolves clothing. You are wonderful as you are and have everything that you were meant to have. Nobody may have told you, but you are already complete. It is time for you to see that. Once you change your perspective, everything will change. Take a moment to allow yourself to experience that right now for a few moments.
- Practice Gratitude – Be grateful for what you have, where you are, people share experiences with, for shelter, the food you eat and for this moment. It is a gift; that is why we call it present. Please focus on the Positive and leave gossip, drama and negative news to fend for themselves. You feel better and more energised when you are positive and have gratitude.
- Live your Life Purpose – Search and discover your life purpose. Live your dreams and desires. You are the centre of your journey, and every day should be you living your best life, the way that is right for you. You are alive, so live, don't just exist! Become confident and comfortable in expressing who you are what you stand for. Let the real you stand up today. Free yourself from the boxes and labels that others would seek to entrap you in. Let today be the end of an existing and the birth of your awakening.
Self-compassion is not about judging yourself positively; it's about relating to yourself kindly despite our flaws, mistakes and errors that we make. Dr Neff's research showed that people are 75-85% more compassionate to others than themselves. We are able to tap into our positive reserve when supporting others that we tend not to use when keeping ourselves. Today is a new day, and I encourage you to treat yourself the way you would treat others you love and care for in this area of self-compassion.