Boy oh boy, it’s been a month. In Ontario, we have yet to turn a corner on the pandemic. On a personal note, I’ve been dealing with two pest control issues (one with a tail, the other with wings), a sick and highly anxious dog, and a suitcase packed with emotional baggage that I finally realized I wasn’t going to unpack without the aid of a therapist. Recently, said therapist asked me if I practice self-compassion.
Hmmm. I had to pause.
I do a lot of navel-gazing (as you’ll know if you’re a regular in this space). That’s pretty indulgent. And I get myself out for nice walks and practice yoga and have no problem talking about my feelings with friends. (Thank you, friends, for listening.)
I’m definitely self-aware. And I do make time for self-care. But do I practice self-compassion? Not so much. Think about the way you’d support a struggling friend.
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. (Kristin Neff)
Do you practice self-compassion?
If you’re unsure, here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. Do you judge yourself when you’re failing or suffering?
If you’re a compassionate person (and I’m pretty sure you are), you would never blame a friend for a situation they found themselves in even if you believed they were at fault. At worst, you might say, “We all make mistakes.”
If I gathered up all the words I’ve flung at myself over the past few weeks and hurled them at my friends, I wouldn’t have any friends. None. Zero.
Let me warn you about something sneaky. Even when our rational minds are confident we did the best we could in whatever situation we found ourselves, our non-compassionate selves are highly capable of criticism.
I can fully justify why I chose to end my marriage. I can also justify why I chose to say “I DO.” That hasn’t stopped me from berating myself for making a commitment I wasn’t able to keep. It hasn’t stopped me from insisting I should have known, been, or chosen better.
I would never — in a million years — tell a friend she should have known better. I would never judge someone for taking a leap of faith just because they ended up falling flat on their face. I would embrace that person in my loving arms and comfort them. That’s compassion, and self-compassion means embracing yourself in those same loving arms.
2. Do you feel alone in your suffering?
If so, I get it, but here’s the thing.
You, like me, are one of 7.9 billion human beings and by nature, humans are imperfect. When we are suffering, we are participating in the shared human experience. While a specific failure or pain may be uniquely ours, our suffering isn’t.
Don’t — I repeat, DO NOT — take this to mean you have no reason to suffer, hurt, or complain. While the greater suffering may help you put your own in context, don’t brush off your achy heart as a first-world problem. Sure, others have it worse than you, but that’s not the point.
The reason it’s important to consider our shared humanity is not to diminish our lived experiences but rather to diminish the sense that we are somehow more inadequate than others. We are not. We are all, each and every one of us, inadequate to some degree.
Let us accept our inadequacies with the same grace we accept the inadequacies of those we love. That is self-compassion.
3. Do you try not to think about the things that cause you pain?
I’m a recovering pessimist. For decades of my life, all I focused on was what was wrong.
A few years ago, a switch flipped and I was reborn. My cup was neither half empty nor half full; it was positively overflowing. Like a drug, optimism had me flying high, and then COVID happened.
Then, the separation, which led to me moving home and deciding to park my life coaching dream. Then the afore-mentioned home invaders moved in, but I soldiered on, hellbent on retaining my sunny disposition — until I couldn’t any longer.
We can try and run from our pain but it eventually catches up with us in some form or another. What if, instead of suppressing or denying it, we simply observe it and in doing so, eventually move through it?
Imagine waking up in the morning and instead of saying, “Self, stop whining! Put on your big girl pants and get to it,” you were to say, “Self, I love you. I’ve got you. And I’m going to help you navigate today by keeping my loving arms around you.”
The first statement promotes resistance, and what we resist persists. The second supports healing. In times of trouble, which do you tend to choose?
Don’t confuse self-compassion with self-pity.
When we feel self-pity, we become consumed with ourselves. We believe we have it worse than others and conversely, that others have it better than us. We believe we deserve all the attention and have little left to give. Our lives become self-centred.
When we practice self-compassion, however, we recognize that others are suffering, too. We are not alone; we are part of a collective. And as compassionate human beings, we show compassion to that entire collective — ourselves included.
Viv for Today xo
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