For most people, it’s a sad and undeniable truth, we lack having compassion for ourselves. If we’re capable of showing compassion, “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”, we easily shine it on others but struggle giving it to ourselves. I believe compassion is what connects us to our humanity and, showing it for others and ourselves, is an essential element to thriving in our very human and limited time on earth.
We witness the people around us rise and fall with the seasons of life. And, while it’s the law of nature to grow and bloom through adversity, our heart aches seeing the people we love, and care for, experience the pain and fear that is part of our life’s journey.
I don’t know what happens with this beautiful compassion when we’re the loved-one going through troubling times! Why is it that we don’t feel worthy of our own compassion? Dr. Kristin Neff has spent decades studying self-compassion, gently guiding us to reconnect with self-kindness and mindfulness and trying to teach us to use self-compassion as a tool for managing negative or debilitating emotions that can become destructive if left unchecked.
She suggests that practicing self-compassion means “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?”
Let this sink in: We are not meant to be perfect. In our lifetime, we will fail as often as we succeed and that doesn’t mean we are a failure; it means we are engaging life by learning and growing. The key is to be kind to ourselves through all results and always keep moving towards accepting and dissolving negative emotions! Sorry to say, but it’s not a one-and-done gig. We cycle through ups and downs our entire lifetime. Life grows us with a wide range of situations to manage and this gives our life dimension and diversity to be a better human.
While we may not beat ourselves up all day, everyday, with shame and criticism, it’s there lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce in moments of weakness and doubt. We can easily go on autopilot until life around us begins to crumble before we dive into practicing self-compassion. Then we’re dealing with a full-blown “down in the dumps” episode, when, if left unchecked and ignored, can easily lead to situational depression.
Many prefer to ignore our lack of self-compassion with diversions such as drinking, shopping, and eating, to distract the big hole of unworthiness in us, but that’s not self-compassion and certainly not self-care. It’s a momentary feel-good, keeping us from getting to the root of our unhealthy emotions and ultimately, blocking our path towards healing.
A cornerstone practice of self-compassion is mindfulness of our emotions and more importantly, the acceptance of them. It’s releasing the need to control or avoid them by acknowledging what we feel, AND, not judging what we feel. This surrender to all our emotions, even ones we consider bad, is saying “yes” to life instead of resisting life. Neff says at this point of complete acceptance, we can wholly love ourselves, including any past pain or fears, and begin to heal. Because this is showing grace for struggles in the past and seeing ourselves with hope as the work in progress we are.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you find yourself lacking a good dose of daily self-compassion, take some time to explore Dr. Neff’s compassion exercises and see what appeals to you. Simple things like a compassion journal, supportive touch, changing critical self-talk, and identifying what we really want. While it’s a wonderful gift to have our loved ones be loving and supportive, we need to be the driving force for a loving and thriving life. Take the time to foster self-compassion. It makes a huge difference and you’re worth it. ❤
Keep it Simple,