Mindful Self-Compassion is the essence of emotional healing. It is the art of supporting ourselves like a good friend. So as we become aware in the moment that we are struggling, we can begin to respond to ourselves with kindness and wisdom to promote ease, more well-being and better relationships in our lives.
Compassion is good for you as well
We were taught that we should be kind and have compassion for others. We know it is good for them! But what about if we attend to ourselves in the same way! Awakening the compassion for ourselves is an essential step in our healing and well-being. This is when we acknowledge our struggles, wishing to care for ourselves and to alleviate our suffering.
What is Self-Compassion about?
For most of us, Self-Compassion is a new concept which may be filled with misgivings. It is not self-pity, self-indulgence, narcissistic self-interest. It is not about becoming inconsiderate of others, irresponsible, unduly demanding.
Self-compassion is about:
-encouraging myself positively for what matters in the short and long term.
-caring for myself like a good caregiver would, seeking what is wholesome, healthy and good
-cultivating my relationships with others and supporting one another because we all suffer
-being more understanding of my needs as well as the needs of others,
-wanting to alleviate our suffering, mine included.
-inspiring hope and goodwill
Self-Compassion is a healthy way to relate to ourselves
When we ignore our pain, or blame or treat ourselves harshly for our struggles, we are disconnecting from the human race, withdrawing, isolating ourselves which can only increase our suffering.
Self-Compassion is when we recognise that we are fully human just like billions of others on this planet. "I am not alone… we are all struggling and suffering!"
Self-Compassion is when I choose to stop, to be aware of the difficult moments and to attend to myself in a non-judging way as a caring friend. It is a willingness to be with myself as a loving companion wishing to alleviate my own pain, wishing me well.
Self-compassion is giving yourself what you need when you need it for your own well-being and the well-being of others.
Self-Compassion is also acceptance of what is, not resisting the pain, but instead attending to the wound to heal it, being lovingly patient, having faith and hope in the healing power of kindness.
Self-Compassion gives us strength to bear it, knowing that there is something better around the corner.
Self-compassion to cultivate strengths
You know yourself better than anyone else. Often we know ourselves more in terms of inadequacies and faults which can be so demoralising and depleting. What about if we focus more on getting to know our strengths, being aware of what we can do, our assets, abilities and goodwill. In this way, we can energise and motivate ourselves better.
What is it like when we have compassion for ourselves?
We feel good when others show us compassion but the most healing will occur when the compassion comes from within when we tap into this power to heal ourselves. We all have thoughts of “I am not good enough”, or “There is something wrong with me”, “I am not lovable”, “ I am worthless”, “I should be punished for this”, “I am ugly”.
As we seek to be mindful, to attend with kindness to our failings, we can begin to see what and why we have done this or that mistake. We can start to understand that our reaction was in the context of other factors. It was not all our fault. We are not so bad or actions were not so bad! We can see that maybe we were reacting because we were in pain and were not aware of other options. We can let go of the parallelising shame and guilt and instead focus on positive constructive actions that are on correcting and improving our ways.
How do we start?
Throughout our daily life, there are moments of struggles, moments of pain which becomes opportunities for practice in Self-Compassion. In the midst of our stress, we can take a pause and recognise our difficulties, becoming aware that we are not the only one having a difficult time. At that point we can explore ways to soothe, to calm ourselves by:
-taking a “breathing moment" where we breathe out,
-coming in the here and now,
-dropping into our body,
-observing in a nonjudgmental, accepting way "it is what it is…"
-looking, hearing, tasting, using touch or hug to calm ourselves
-attend to ourselves with loving kindness, wishing ourselves well, “May my struggle ease”, “May I be able to bear this”, “May I find peace”…
-pay attention to our self with understanding and kindness to alleviate the suffering and inspire faith and hope that the situation will ease.
What Self-Compassion can do for you
Studies have shown that we can cultivate the skill of mindfulness and self-compassion to promote well-being and positive relationships. We can learn to respond to difficult moments with kindness, understanding and resilience to ease our struggles.
Rapidly expanding research demonstrates that self-compassion enhances resilience; boosting happiness, promoting satisfying relationship, maintaining healthy lifestyle habits such as diet/exercise while reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Self-Compassion allows us to recharge our batteries to have the emotional energy to care for our self and others, preventing us from burning out. And it’s easier than you think!
The three key components of self-compassion are self-kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindful awareness. Kindness opens our hearts to suffering, so we can give ourselves what we need. Common humanity opens us to our essential interrelatedness, so we know we aren’t alone. Mindfulness opens us to the present moment, so we can accept our experience as it is with greater wisdom. It is the opposite of self-pity, self-indulgence or narcissistic self-interest.
Anyone can learn it
Self-Compassion can be learned by anyone, even those who didn’t receive enough affection in childhood or who feel uncomfortable when they are good to themselves. It can also be more difficult for some people who have had difficult experiences in the past and may need to be approached in a more gradual way.
Self-Compassion gives us courage
Self-compassion is a courageous attitude that stands up to harm, including the harm that we unwittingly inflict on ourselves through self-criticism, self-isolation, and self-absorption. It provides emotional strength and resilience, allowing us to admit our shortcomings, motivate ourselves with kindness, forgive ourselves when needed, relate wholeheartedly to others and be more authentically ourselves.
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