Last month’s article on my experience of trying to control my health problems elicited a huge and positive response. Thankyou to all who connected with similar stories.
There was a time, after the various operations and medical care, that I looked back on my stubbornness with a shiver of self-judgement. ‘How could you do that to yourself; what the hell were you thinking of?’ and so on. And f course, none of that helped in any way at all. In fact, it just made me feel even worse about myself. But at the time, I didn’t know how to be any different.
Since then, with experience and study, I’ve come to realise the power and simplicity of self-compassion.
What is Self-Compassion?
Think of how many times you shred yourself with self-criticism. Now, would you speak to your best friend like that? The impact of having compassion for yourself is no different than having compassion for others. When you feel moved by your friend’s situation, you generally feel caring and a desire to help them. You offer kindness and understanding when they make mistakes – you don’t judge them harshly. You also understand that failure and imperfection is part of the whole human experience.
Having self-compassion means treating yourself the same, when you are having a challenge, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.
Rather than endlessly and repeatedly whipping yourself for perceived shortcomings, you show kindness and understanding to yourself. Face it – who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
Instead of lacerating yourself, you stop to tell yourself ‘this is really difficult right now; how can I look out for myself in this moment?’
Being self-compassionate means you want to be happy and healthy in the long term. It’s not about letting yourself off the hook. And in fact it takes courage and resilience to show yourself compassion.
What it’s not
Self-compassion is hugely different from self-pity or self-indulgence. When we feel self-pity, we become swamped in our own stuff and forget that others have similar problems. Many people say they are unwilling to be self-compassionate because they fear they would let themselves get away with anything.
We can be very hard on ourselves when we want to change, because we’ve learned to think we can shame ourselves into action – that’s the self-flagellation route. But this route often flops if we can’t face difficult truths about ourselves because we might fear hating ourselves if we do. So, weaknesses can remain unresolved in an unconscious attempt to avoid self-censure.
Let’s be really clear here: Shame does not work.
By contrast, the care inherent in compassion offers a powerful supportive and motivating force for growth, as well as providing the safety needed to see your Self clearly without fear of self-condemnation.
What can You do?
Next time you feel yourself slipping into self-whipping judgement, breathe – again – and again; pause what you’re doing and thinking; ask yourself ‘if I were speaking to someone I love, in this situation, how would I speak to them’? Allow the answer just to be – without shame or judgement.
Being self-compassionate also enables personal failings to be acknowledged with kindness – we do not need to hide them. Moreover, self-compassion doesn’t rely on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face!
Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behavior, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.
To find out more about self-compassion, visit www.self-compassion.org. To come to one of my Self-Compassion workshops later in the year, simply visit the www.trudyarthurs.com website and link with the newsletter – you’ll be first to hear about the dates and details.
I’d really love to receive your feedback. Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Trudy Arthurs, the Confidence Specialist. Tel: 07810 511 600 – call to arrange your Clarity Session. With blessings ‘til next month.
© Dancing Leopards Ltd 2015