The Truth about Self-Compassion

The Truth About Self-Compassion

Mindfulness has been having a big moment in the media while self-compassion remains a bit more murky and misunderstood.

Many people have misgivings about the concept of self-compassion because they fear it’s precariously close to narcissism or they can’t conceptualize how it is different from gratitude or simply being present.

 Self-compassion is not just about embracing our experiences – positive or negative. It’s also about embracing the person who is experiencing them (ourselves.)

More than that, self-compassion involves recognition of our oneness with humanity, and acknowledgement that like every other person on Earth, we are imperfect but good enough.

It’s amazing how quickly we can forget this simple truth when things get tough or don’t go our way. We blame ourselves or try to figure out what we could have done differently. We wonder why things don’t go according to plan. 

This creates a situation in which we’re left feeling both isolated and shamed. We compare ourselves to those who we believe could’ve done better and convince ourselves that there are some people in the world that get it and we just don’t.

Here are three truths about self-compassion:

  1. It makes us stronger.

    Many of us tend to fall into the trap of believing that that the only reason we’ve gotten as far as we have is because our self-criticism keeps us in check. In fact the opposite is true: we’ve gotten as far as we have in our lives despite our self- criticism.

    Imagine a child who is working hard in school but still doing poorly. In one scenario her parents say, “Why can’t you do better?” “All your friends are able to get good grades and they don’t try nearly as hard, why can’t you?”

    In the other scenario, the parents say, “I can see how hard you’re trying. Let’s figure out what I can do to help.”

    In the first scenario the child will likely give up trying, lose faith in herself and/or start to resent school. In the other, she maintains her self-confidence, self-worth, and sovereignty.

    A supportive attitude about her shortcoming and encouragement to stretch beyond her current skill set is how she maintains the confidence to keep trying in the face of failure.

    The same is true for us. When we can speak to ourselves with loving kindness, when we can get away from the shame and blame game with ourselves, we give ourselves the motivation and encouragement we need to keep trying. 

  2. Self- compassion is selfless.

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that devoting time and energy to our own well-being, comes at the cost of being of value to somebody else.  In fact the opposite is true. 

    When we’re in the throes of self-flagellation we diminish our own resources. We waste time trying to figure out how to fix our inadequacies, and that’s time that could be spent taking care of ourselves which would then make us available to taking care of others.

    Self-compassion also connects us to others because it allows us to recognize that we’re all in the same boat: we all have strengths and weaknesses. We are all imperfect. This is what make us who we are.

    When we’re shaming ourselves, it’s impossible to connect with our loved ones. We create a wall between us and them — a wall in which our most authentic self is buried deep and becomes inaccessible.

  3. Self- compassion is always available to you.

    Unlike external achievements and accolades that only give us a fleeting moment of self-esteem after we’ve proven ourselves, self-compassion is a tool that’s always available to you with no strings attached.

    It begins with creating a space for your authentic self to come forward and recognizing that there is room for all parts of you– even the ones that are full of shame or fear.

    Like any skill, the more we practice self-compassion, the more accessible and readily available it becomes to us. It begins by noticing the dialogue that’s going on in your mind and acknowledging it. Once you’re aware of it, answer it with loving kindness.

    If you’re not sure where to begin, this mantra may be helpful:

    May I be safe.

    May I be happy.

    May I be healthy.

    May I live with ease. 

Self-compassion allows us to process difficult experiences and by processing them we let go of them. In turn, this more available and open to both giving and receiving love because were coming from a place of love.


About the Author: Amy Beth Acker 

bio-pic-1Amy Beth Acker, LCSW is a counsellor, coach, and writer for women who are living with a perfectionist mindset and ready for a better way. Her clients feel stressed, alone, or stuck in their lives. They look around and constantly feel like they don’t measure up. They feel like they’re both not enough and too much. Their work together offers a place to explore what’s possible in life and to create lasting mindset shifts.

It’s her intention to give women their lives back by teaching them to connect with themselves at a deeper level, find clarity, and change unhealthy thoughts and life patterns.

She provides her clients with the tools they need to start loving and trusting themselves and find direction and flow.

For more of her writing, free guides and worksheets, or to learn more about her services, please visit amybethacker.com, or find her on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.

 

9 Comments

Nestor

This article is truly amazing and so very powerful. As I read having so many difficulties in my upbringing and growing stronger than ever tears drew in my eyes. I just want to thank you Amy for such insight in your psychological studies of our human ways. You are truly an angel sent from heaven.

Reply
Amy

Hi Nestor!
Thanks for your beautiful words! I’m so glad my article resonated with you and helped shine some insight on past experiences you have had!

Reply
Jasmin Beck

A wonderful article to help one understand how our thinking affects not only ourselves, but others too. Thank you so much for sharing.
Jasmin

Reply
Amy

Yes Jasmine, because we are all connected, our thinking effects more than ourselves! So glad you liked the article!

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
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Because sales are the best, and Christmas is the best, and helping kiddos find their brave is the very best of all! So, to celebrate the end of the year (because truly, it's been a year hasn't it), and to help you settle brave hearts for next year, or night times, or separations, or, you know, all the things, we're taking 25% off books and plushies in the Hey Sigmund shop.

There's no need to enter a code. The books and bundles are already marked with their special sale prices. You'll find them all there - plushies, books, bundles - doing shopping cartwheels, beside themselves excited about helping your young ones feel bigger than anxiety, and shimmy on to brave. 
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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