Image – Daniele Zedda
If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am going through a bit of a journey ( who isn’t ?) towards embracing who I am as a person, flaws and all. And you know what? It’s been the best thing I have ever done for myself. After years of struggle, I am finally able to stand in my power, and truly own there person I have become ( most of the time). But for the longest time, I desperately wanted just to like myself. When I researched ( i.e. googled ) ‘ how to increase self esteem’ or ‘ how to like myself more’ ( yes I actually did that ) the search results didn’t appeal. You see, high self esteem hinges around the fact that you feel better than average.
When you are down in the depths of self loathing, the whole reason most of us feel like shit, is that we’ve reviewed the evidence, and all things considered – we DON’T feel better than average. So, trying to alleviate the pain of self aversion by trying to feel better than average, is like telling an alcoholic to just stop drinking. In theory, it sounds a little harsh, but logical – however, in reality it almost always falls short. For me, trying to improve my self esteem just didn’t cut the mustard.
Another problem with self esteem comes when you actually do fuck up – get fired, break up, say something awful to your best friend, or eat the entire gluten-free-vegan-raw-cashew-cheesecake. These things, almost by definition of ‘going wrong’ mean they aren’t better than average. In other words, self esteem desserts you when you’re at your most vulnerable. I dunno about you, but if self-esteem was a person, I wouldn’t hang out with her very long.
The good news is, there is a way out of self loathing, harsh self criticism and the fear of never being good enough. It’s called Self Compassion.
Self Compassion is the best friend you’ve always wanted and it’s the tender embrace you crave in a difficult situation. Self Compassion is an outstretched hand in a moment of fear, and a gentle pause in a downward spiral. Self Compassion is YOU, giving yourself the care, reassurance and kindness you would give to your best friend or your daughter in a moment of need. Want to know the best thing about it? It really works.
Thanks to the insight, dedication and wisdom of a few kick-ass researchers, we have butt-loads of scientific evidence to prove that self-compassion is one of the best ways out of the suffering of self-aversion ( not to mention towards better health, improved relationships & higher emotional intelligence )
Kristen Neff PhD,
has literally written the book on Self Compassion, and in it she shares her journey towards Self Compassion as well as loads of exercises, research and insights into the how and why of being kind to yourself. If you are looking for a new and more mature way of relating to yourself, I highly recommend her work. In the mean time though, I want to share with you a few little nuggets to get you started. There are three main components of self compassion, all of which are vital to embracing the wholeness of who you are.
Core Components of Self Compassion
1. Self Kindness – being gentle and understanding with yourself, the way you would with someone you care about
2. Common Humanity or Interconnectedness – reminding yourself that everyone goes through moments of suffering
3. Mindfulness – the ability to hold our difficult emotions with awareness and balance rather than denying or amplifying them
So how then, do you put Self Compassion into practice? The main thing that I like to remember, is that Self Compassion is a practice. There are going to be times when you forget about it, and sink back into the critical inner world – but thats ok. Over time, your inner dialogue will start to shift, and become friendlier. Self Compassion isn’t one more thing to be perfect at, or achieve, but it’s a gradual softening and soothing of your inner voice and how you treat yourself. One of my favourite practical exercises from Kristen Neff’s book, is called –
The Self Compassion Mantra – “a set of memorised phrases that you repeat silently when you want to give yourself compassion”.
“ This is a really hard moment for me. Everyone feels this way sometimes. May I give myself kindness and compassion in this moment of suffering”
The words themselves aren’t important but try to incorporate all three components of Self Compassion into your mantra. Your mantra allows you to acknowledge the truth that life can feel shitty sometimes, but assures you, you are not alone – because you can hold yourself in care and compassion.
I used my self compassion mantra when I was feeling really low about coming back to Sydney after being at home with my family. I gained a few pounds and felt sad about leaving my Mum & Dad. I was overwhelmed by the prospect of going back to work, and all the responsibilities that come with ‘real life’. No moment of suffering is too small to warrant compassion. It’s not just for the big, life changing events – it’s just as useful when your favourite pair of jeans won’t do up, or when you can’t meet your friends for drinks because you have a negative bank balance. These moments too, are worthy of your care and compassion.
Now, take a moment, and create your own Self Compassion Mantra. You can write it down, and post it somewhere that you will see regularly. Or just repeat it a few times until it sticks. Once you’ve got it, you will have a powerful inner resource to draw on the next time life throws you a curve ball.
Self Compassion is the number 1 thing that helped me shift how I talk to, and relate to myself. It has given me a whole new perspective on how being kind to yourself isn’t lazy, or indulgent but rather is the ultimate act of self care. I think we are entering a phase in our development as a society where we will start to embrace people for all of their uniqueness – and celebrate people for being authentic. No longer will we tolerate damaging self criticism, or uphold unrealistic ideals of beauty. People are becoming more conscious, and with that more compassionate, and the best place to start practicing compassion is with yourself.
Are you ready to join the leading edge?
Get started by crafting your very own Self Compassion Mantra – if you feel generous, share it with us in the comments below.
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