096: The Journey to Self-Compassion

I have been studying today’s topic for over a year.

Not because it takes that long to read or learn about, but because it’s a lifelong quest, but I’m happy to say that I’m at least on the road now.

I firmly believe that the journey is more important than the destination in most things, especially with today’s topic.

Do I wish I would have started my journey sooner?  Definitely.

But at least I’m finally on my way.

I’d like to talk to you today about Self-Compassion and how it has changed so much about the way I handle the burdens that never seem to stop coming my way.

A few years ago, I felt really drawn to learning more about Self-Compassion.

I knew that Kristin Neff was the one of the top researchers and teachers on this topic, so I got a few of her books about this with the intention to read through them pretty quickly.

As with most things, it took longer than I thought it would.  Not the actual reading, but the subject totally took me by surprise.

There was so much more to it than I had anticipated.

I found that it wasn’t just learned through reading the materials.

I had to stop and process what I was reading.

It was like I was doing my own research project.

I started noticing where I could give myself more self-compassion.

I questioned the way I had been thinking and tried to understand myself better.

It may have taken longer than I thought, but I have done more than learn… I feel like I have gotten my feet wet only wanting to dive in deeper.

Today, I want to share with you the basic premise of what Self-Compassion is and then over the next few weeks, go into more depth with a few of the things I found most interesting and what I thought may help you the most.

I hope you enjoy this series on the podcast.

The first big ah-ha I had was that there was more to self-compassion than just being kind to myself.  That is the first part of it but there was so much more.  There are 3 components of Self-Compassion.

They are:

  1. Self-Kindness which is being gently and understanding with yourself rather that critical and judgmental.
  2. Common Humanity.  I learned that is feeling connected with others in our experiences of life rather than feeling separated in the hard thing we go through.
  3. It requires Mindfulness.  We must be aware of our experiences, maintaining balance and not ignoring or exaggerating what we are experiencing.

Let’s talk a little about each of these 3 Doorways to Self-Compassion, which is what Kristen Neff calls them.

1st Component of Self-Compassion: Kindness

There is more to self-kindness than just stopping judging ourselves.  It begins by being actively comforting to yourself, treating yourself just like you would a friend that you love dearly.  I’ve been teaching this in Camp Connection before I even found out that it was a thing.  It really does change everything when you are kinder with yourself. 

When something is hard… stop and give yourself warmth, gentleness and sympathy for what you’re going through.  When I started doing this, and stopped waiting for someone else to give me the sympathy I was wanting, it changed me.

 It changed my expectations of what I thought I could only get from other people.

Turns out, I’m a pretty good friend after all!  I am a good friend to myself!!  That’s when I started experiencing true healing.

It’s actually easier than you think to be kind to yourself. 

It’s not like you comfort yourself outload and open yourself up to others thinking you’re strange.  It’s just something you do inwardly.

Did you realize that we have the capacity to both give and receive love?

Of course you do!

But did you know you can give both to yourself?

Think about that one! 

It’s amazing!!!

We don’t have to rely on others to give it to us.  It’s nice but we don’t have to RELY on it.

When we consistently give ourselves love and understanding, we begin to feel worthy of love and acceptance. 

See how that works?

It’s always available when you’re the one giving it to yourself.

This doesn’t become a selfish thing!

When you feel loved, you’re more likely to give love.

I recently heard someone talk about the common phrase, “Hurt people, hurt people.”  Have you heard that one?  Well, I heard it said, that “Loved people, love people”.   This cemented in what I’ve been feeling for a while now.  When I love myself, I love others better. 

But…how do you start being kinder to yourself when you’ve been in a pattern of being mean to yourself for so long?

Here’s my top suggestion for that.

Start paying attention.

Just begin listening to how you’re talking to yourself.

When you make a mistake, what pops into your mind?

Start listening and I think you might just be horrified at what you hear.

How do you change it?

Believe it or not, I’m not the only one who answers this question with Journaling.

Start writing out your thoughts so you can see them in front of you.

When you see them, they are easier to identify.

Don’t sensor what comes to your mind.

Say the mean thing about yourself and see what happens.

In my experience, after I’ve gotten out all of the venom, the kinder more compassionate part of myself that shows up for others, begins to show up in my journal.  She begins to bring my thoughts to a kinder place and I’m able to see a different way to talk to myself.

Please try it if you haven’t, and don’t expect to become an expert at it on your first try.

It takes time.

Show up every day for a few weeks before you say it doesn’t work.

You deserve to give it a good shot!

2nd Component of Self-Compassion: Common Humanity

This one took me by surprise when I first read it, but as I learned more, it made total sense.

Self-acceptance and self-love are important, but they are not complete by themselves.  They leave out an essential part of living on the earth—we’re surrounded by other people.

Compassion literally means “to suffer with.

Having self-compassion honors the fact that feelings of inadequacy and disappointment are shared by all of us.

This is what makes self-compassion different than self-pity (which we are going to discuss on a later episode)

This can offer us comfort because we’re all human and we are not alone.

But, we don’t tend to focus on what we have in common with others, but what is different.  That’s when we feel isolated and disconnected.

Here’s where I really perked up.

When we learn about common humanity and that we are more alike than different, we feel more connected. 

CONNECTION my friends!

My study of Self-compassion was bringing in connection…my favorite subject!!

When we are in touch with our common humanity, we remember that everyone suffers and that is a form of comfort because everyone around us is human.

If we can remind ourselves in a moment of falling down that failure is part of the shared human experience, then instead of feeling isolated, we can feel connection.

It still hurts to fail but it doesn’t become worse by adding separation to it.

Here’s a little thing you can try they next time you find yourself judging yourself harshly. 

Try to remember to bring in common humanity instead of separation.

When you feel a negative feeling come up about yourself and you hear yourself saying something like, “That was stupid of me to say that!  How could you be so thoughtless?”  Follow up with a thought like, “And it won’t be the last time because I’m human.  Lot of us humans speak before we think.  I’m gonna try to do better next time.”

See what I mean.  Instead of sticking with the feeling of being the only stupid person on the planet that says insensitive things, remember that ALL of us do it sometimes and we are still doing a great job.  So are you!!

3rd Component of Self-Compassion:  Mindfulness

Mindfulness is simply seeing what is happening right now and accept it without judgement.

To give ourselves compassion, we have to first recognize that we are suffering.

There is a critical difference to focusing on a failure itself, rather than on the pain caused by the failure.

Because we have been conditioned to run from pain, it’s a switch to try and learn to pay attention to it.

But how do we show compassion for the pain of our experiences if we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge it?

That’s why it’s so important to learn not only how to acknowledge our feelings but to do it without exaggerating it. 

Observing what is going on right here, right now.  There’s only ONE of those.

When we think about the future or the past, they are only thoughts. 

See the difference with being mindful of what you’re feeling now?

You can deal with that. 

It’s much smaller than adding in the past and the future.

It allows you to see things with more clarity.

It helps you to deal with things more calmly.

Remember that the next time you feel overburdened.

What is happening right here, right now?

It helps us to see that we don’t have to believe every thought or emotion as real or true.

We get to decide what is true right now.

We can respond instead of reacting.

We suffer more when compare our reality to what we might want to have happen, when we desire for things to be different than they are.

The more we resist…the more we suffer.

So, one of the most empowering things about becoming more mindful is that you can shape your future more because you are more clear as you make your choices.

How do we become more mindful when we do so many things on autopilot?

Why not choose an activity every day where you’ll be more mindful.

Here’s a few ideas:

-When you’re brushing your teeth.  Don’t let your mind drift to other things.  Just pay attention to the brushing until you’re done.

-Walking from your car into the grocery store.  What are your feet doing?  What does the air feel like on your face?  How many steps does it take to get there?

It’s not easy to do because our minds are wired to look for problems to solve.

Help it slow down and relax by being mindful for short bursts of time and see what happens.

As you can see, there is so much to learn when it comes to self-compassion, and I can’t wait to dive in deeper with you.

I am so grateful to the research and focus of Dr. Kristen Neff of this topic. 

It has opened up a whole new world for me. 

I am learning to be more self-compassionate with myself all the time with lots of need for improvement.  But, if I keep trying and remembering as I go along that:

 – I can give myself kindness is every situation

– I can remember that pain and hard times are part of the shared human experience

– And I can pay attention to my thoughts and emotions right as they are here and now.

That is the life-long practice of self-compassion.

You in?

I hope so because it is a worthwhile pursuit!

If this episode inspired you at all to make some simple changes in your life, I’d like to invite you to share it with a friend.  You can make this a part of the shared human experience you are making a part of your life.  You can learn about self-compassion together and support each other.

Thanks for joining me here today and remember:

I see you.  I understand how hard you’re trying, and I’d like to help however I can.

Have a wonderful day and I’ll see you back here next week.

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096: The Journey to Self-Compassion