What is Self-Compassion?
by Diane Linsley
Self-compassion is a hot topic in the world of self-help and life
coaching, as well as psychology and counseling. Everyone seems
to be talking about it, but few people understand what it really is.
I've been observing what people in social media are saying about
self-compassion. There's a lot of misunderstanding. Most people
Self-Compassion is Beyond Self-Care
Self-compassion is not about taking bubble baths or buying gifts
for ourselves when we are feeling down. There's nothing wrong
with self-care. It's vitally important for our health and happiness.
But it's only one aspect self-compassion.
Some people indulge themselves with a treat every time they feel
unhappy. They sincerely believe they are doing the right thing, but their problems never get solved, and the habit of indulging themselves to escape from pain actually makes things worse in the long run.
To define self-compassion, we first need to define the word compassion. The roots of this word are com (meaning "with") and passion (meaning "suffering"). Compassion means "to suffer with."
When we have compassion for someone, we are willing to suffer with them by being fully present and listening closely to what they need to express. We don't just tell them to cheer up - with the implication that if they have negative thoughts, they will be punished by the universe with more bad stuff via the Law of Attraction. I personally find this to be very offensive. The first step towards self-compassion is to become aware of our own suffering - giving it our full attention without turning away from the pain. I recommend doing the emotional healing process.
Self-Compassion and Self-Discipline
Self-compassion is not about trying to cover up, deny or avoid our own suffering. Problems don't get solved by pretending they don't exist. We can't fix our relationships by getting a manicure. What do manicures have to do with relationships?
Fixing a relationship, or any other problem, requires that we first admit there is a problem. This initial stage of acceptance comes with some pretty painful feelings. It takes courage to face these feelings instead of trying to escape from them.
Then we have to figure out solutions. This may require us to learn new skills, seek professional help, and do a lot of hard work. There's no easy way out. If only getting a manicure really worked!
As a mother who raised three children to adulthood, I know that compassion isn't always "nice." There were times when I had to discipline my children. I did this painful work because it was the most compassionate thing I could do for my kids. I wanted them to grow up to be responsible, happy adults.
And they did. Now in their twenties, my kids tell me how grateful they are for the way I raised them with compassion and discipline. Of course, they didn't thank me when they were teenagers!
Self-compassion sometimes means disciplining ourselves to do our personal growth work. That's more compassionate than indulging ourselves. Of course, we can still have the bubble bath :) It's important to care for the Inner Child. Self-compassion is about being a good parent to ourselves.
You can always talk with your higher self about how to solve your problems while you are in the bath. Some of my greatest inspirations came while I was doing things for my Inner Child like dancing or going for a nature walk. Inspiration comes most easily when we are in a relaxed state of mind.
Self-Compassion in the Long Term
Mature self-compassion requires long-term thinking. What can you do today to solve your problems so they aren't still causing you suffering in the future? Buying yourself a gift might make you feel better today, but what about tomorrow?
The ability to think long-term develops from awareness. The more awareness you have, the further out into the future you can extend your imagination. With enough awareness, you will eventually begin to think beyond this single lifetime. You will begin to envision your life the way your soul sees it. Great self-compassion is experienced by people who are able to see through the eyes of their soul. This vision puts suffering into proper perspective. People whose vision extends beyond this lifetime are willing to take bigger risks and make greater sacrifices, including sacrificing temporary conveniences and egoic desires in order to experience greater spiritual growth. One of the most effective ways to increase awareness is through meditation. There are many ways to meditate. My favorite is Holosync meditation, which has many proven benefits.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion means treating ourselves with the same kindness, care and understanding that we would offer to a friend when they suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. Self-compassion means being our own best friend, especially during times of suffering. We are not just a fair-weather friend. We learn how to deal with the Inner Critic, accepting and loving ourselves in spite of all our problems and weaknesses. We replace self-criticism with compassionate self-talk.
There are two sides to compassion - yin and yang. Yin compassion has to do with feelings. How do you feel about yourself? Emotional healing work helps us develop the yin side of compassion.
Action arises out of feelings. When we look deeply, we discover that everything we do is motivated by feelings. Feelings come first. Then action. Yang compassion is all about action.
Actions motivated by self-compassion include setting boundaries, taking care of your body, and taking steps to achieve your goals in order to raise your self-esteem.
Once we are aware of our needs and engage our feelings of self-compassion, then we can act more resourcefully to care for ourselves. The word "care" implies both feeling and action.
"A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life." ~Chris Germer
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