Today while waiting at the Doctor's office, I had time and boredom to read a magazine. The magazine is Austin Woman. I stumbled upon an interview they did with Dr. Kristin Neff. The interview was about her work on self-compassion and it peaked my interest. To her, self-compassion means, "you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings." Below is an excerpt from her website, http://self-compassion.org:
"Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
You may try to change in ways that allow you to be more healthy and happy, but this is done because you care about yourself, not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are. Perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life."
To me self-compassion starts with realizing that we are perfect but not in the way we define perfection. Perfect to me means something or someone with a high value. We all have unique ways we can share our high values in society. Therefore, we are all perfect. We are being imperfect when we neglect to polish and share our gifts.
Self-compassion is not about being lazy or creating excuses for bad behavior. We have to take responsibility for our actions no matter the consequences. However, we cannot allow our self-talk to be poisonous. We need to create a peaceful environment inside. That starts with awareness. Once we are aware of our internal conflict, then we can formulate a plan to bring back a healthy balance. Self-compassion is a tool we can use to keep the peace in our head.
Another point to note is that we have to stop hating our inner critic. Our inner critic is not as developed as our higher self and it operates from the reptilian part of the brain. It is not domesticated and it is impulsive. Lets have compassion for our inner critic too.
Overall, the rule of thumb is, speak to yourself as if you were your best friend or even better as if you were a well respected important figure. Lets not forget that this is a practice and we will have days when we can't find the right words to communicate our inner thoughts. For those days, lets pause and take a deep breath and if we mess up, lets love ourselves anyway!
Share your thoughts. Do you have any tips for practicing self-compassion?
With Love, Dania