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

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!

Reply
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!

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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