Self-Compassion: a powerful weapon to destroy self-criticism
This morning I woke up to the loud voice of my own negative, critical and judgmental mind:
"you didn't finish the things that you said you will yesterday"
"you didn't wake up at 6 am, AGAIN"
"you're always wasting your time"
Is anyone else also hard on themselves?
I'm a recovering self-criticism addict - there is always something that I'm dissatisfied with myself. I often feel like that I haven't done enough, that I could've spent my time better or that I'm not growing or improving fast enough.
Constantly feeling inadequate and dissatisfied with myself, I often found myself fluctuating between anxiety and overwhelm.
Until I found self-compassion.
As I began applying what I learned about self-compassion, accepting imperfections and handling negative, self-sabotaging thoughts, I began experiencing more peace and calm in my life.
Which leads me here.
I wanted to share what I learned about self-compassion with you because this practice continues to still bring so much peace into my daily life.
Most of my learning came right from an AMAZING booked called Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-Compassion is no different than having compassion for others. Compassion literally means to suffer with.
Let me paint a picture:
You are walking in the middle of a very cold winter and you walk past a small, fragile homeless elderly woman. Your heart feels something. It is resonating with her because you are seeing her as a human who's experiencing pain. You feel moved by her pain and you feel an urge to help her - this is compassion.
It's when our hearts resonate with the imperfections and the suffering of others, instead of judging or criticizing them for their short-comings.
When we experience compassion for others, what's really going on is this:
- we pause
- step into the shoes of the other
- view and experience their world from their perspective
- feel their pain
- feel the desire to alleviate this pain Self-compassion simply means having the same kind of compassion directed inwards for ourselves.
It's when we view ourselves from the perspective another, feel our pain followed by the desire to alleviate the pain by being kind and understanding of ourselves when confronted with personal failings.
It means we accept, embrace and love our imperfections.
Components of Self-Compassion Kristin Neff walks us through the 3 components of Self-Compassion in her book.
1. Self Kindness (instead of judging)
Self-Kindness is when we are kind, understanding and gentle with ourselves when experiencing personal failings, just like how we would be to our loved ones when they are suffering from pain.
Instead of punishing ourselves for our short-comings, practicing self-kindness allows us to reassure and remind ourselves that we are doing the best we can.
Just like how we are moved by the homeless woman, we are moved and resonate with our OWN pain, leading us to express love and kindness with ourselves.
This is how I was kind to myself this morning:
"I know that you are feeling frustrated that you didn't get all the work done yesterday. It's okay. You are doing the best you can and not every day can be perfect! You have been doing so well - look at how much you've accomplished already in the past week! I am proud of you!"
2. Common Humanity
Understanding that it is part of the human experience to make mistakes, to experience pain and ultimately remembering that we are all imperfect.
The problem is that we tend to exacerbate our pain and problems by thinking that we are the only ones experiencing them, leading us to feel alone and isolated.
When we realize that we all experience similar difficulties and pain, it becomes easier for us to be okay to NOT be okay.
This is how I reminded myself this morning:
"You aren't the only one experiencing this frustration. You know, even the people who are the best in their fields experience these kinds of days - they too often feel like they could have done more. They too feel frustrated and disappointed with themselves because they know how much potential they have. You aren't alone in this. We all feel this sometimes."
Neutral, observant state towards negative thoughts and emotions so that it's neither suppressed or exaggerated.
This is when we simply see our thoughts and emotions as they are, with no judgment - we aren't trying to change them.
Too often, we try to get rid of our negative thoughts and emotions, thinking that they are "Bad". We bottle it up, pretend it's okay and push ourselves to just "get over it".
As contradictory as it sounds, acknowledging and accepting our negative and painful thoughts and emotions as they are creates space for them to dissipate naturally on its won, without having to force them out. This is how I became neutrally observant with myself this morning:
"Hm, I am experiencing different emotions this morning. Anxious. Frustration. Disappointment. Overwhelm. Okay, I see them.
Hm, there are different thoughts too (then I said out loud the thoughts). Okay, I see them.
It's okay that these thoughts and emotions are there."
I practiced these steps this morning and it helped me get out of my head and avoid getting trapped in the negative funk all day long.
Sometimes what I find even more helpful is that, after I practice these, I share them with someone I care about - not to get help from them but just to simply share. I find it incredibly uplifting as I feel the huge weight being lifted away from my chest!
Now, it's time to hear from you.
Were you familiar with self-compassion? What's your biggest takeaway from this?
How do you express compassion and love to yourself?