I want to address some of the arguments against self-compassion because self-compassion can feel uncomfortable for people. And some of the things I hear are, “I need to be strong and tough it out.” The way I would address this is the same way I address anger. If action is more important than healing, then, yes, being strong is very appropriate. However, if you want to really engage in a healing process, then some vulnerability, would be really helpful. Vulnerability instigates the healing process. And vulnerability is a source of strength in itself.
Another thing I hear people say is, “If I am easy on myself, then I won't be as effective or won't be as accomplished.” Kristen Neff addresses this really well in her book, “Self-Compassion”. She's the leading researcher who is doing a lot of research on self-compassion and she says that the research shows this is not true--we don't become less effective, we don't become less accomplished when we engage in self-compassion. Actually, the opposite happens. We become better at what we do when we do incorporate self-compassion.
I have a lot of clients who are women of color, and it's so true, racism creates added pressure to get it right, to be better. But ever so more important to give yourself that compassion. Literally just taking 60 seconds of self-compassion can switch the rest of your day around. Self-compassion is essentially, a kind statement that you say to yourself. One example would be correcting shame. “I'm not good enough.” “I messed up.” And then following up with something such as, “I'm human, and it's okay to make mistakes.”
I just can't say enough good things about Kristen Neff. I love her first book, Self-Compassion, and she describes self-compassion as being threefold, having these three components. The first is self-kindness versus self-judgment. So if you're judging yourself, that would be the opposite of self-compassion.
The second component is common humanity. And what that means is, is we remind ourself, we're not the only one feeling these things, especially when this comes to some deep emotions of grief or sadness. We're just one of many, many humans of many, many generations that have felt the same way. Feeling that connectedness with humanity is part of the self-compassion experience.
And the third component is mindfulness, not over identifying with the maybe negative things that we're saying to ourselves. And those of us who have practiced mindfulness for a good enough time, we get to this. There is a point where we realize so much of our thinking isn’t even true. And when we realize that, then we don't identify with them as much. We don't buy into them. We don't believe in them.
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