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:
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.
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.
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
Amy 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.