What exactly does self-compassion mean?
You'd be surprised at how many of us have never given thought to understanding the concept of self compassion - that is - the practice of directing compassion towards yourself for your feelings, thoughts, experiences and needs. From a young age we are often taught to disconnect from and devalue our feelings and needs. We may learn or be conditioned from our experiences that we must denigrate ourselves.
But we were not born this way, tearing ourselves apart.
We were born with perfect love and innocence.
Developing an awareness of our relationship with ourselves, means that we start to observe the content, tone, and quality of our thoughts in relation to ourselves (our character, our being, behaviour, individual qualities and characteristics), as well as the way in which we relate to our feelings and needs. Self critical thoughts may become embedded within us from negative or detrimental early life experiences, messaging from society at large, as well as systems and daily interactions that encourage disconnect from onself and self degradation (submitting or squashing ones' desires, thoughts, opinions, experiences, feelings, and needs) in order to get through the day and survive.
Surviving in this climate means our emotional and spiritual selves are devalued and cut off. Is it any wonder that levels of anxiety and depression are profoundly out of whack with assessments of our 'quality of life' in n. america?
Self-compassion is the deliberate practice of reconnecting with, honouring, and supporting ourselves. It is the conscious catching into awareness of automatic thoughts we have become conditioned to accept, and the corresponding challenge of a purely validating and affirmative response. This means shifting the way that we engage in self talk, and tend to our feelings and needs.
Some qualities that contribute to counter thinking grounded in self-compassion:
- Exploring our feelings with non-judgment...a feeling is neither wrong nor right, it is.
- Being patient with ourselves
- Showing ourselves understanding... Why does it make sense that we act or feel this way?
- Grounding ourselves in our resiliency and strengths...How many ways have we succeeded, big and small in our own survival? On a daily basis?
- Looking at 'negative' coping as a legitimate response to overwhelm...It may not be my ideal response to a situation but I have legitimate needs and desires
- Showing ourselves empathy and kindness...Naming our positive attributes (have others shared their feelings about you?), reminding ourselves of our best selves, most especially when we have trouble believing it.
- Identifying needs related to worries, concerns, and feelings...I need to feel heard, understood, comforted....
- Acceptance...It is okay for me to feel sad
- Directing care inwardly into ourselves when we feel drawn to berate...Being supportive with onself like a good friend would
- Forgiveness...It is not how I wanted to act, but I did. I was extremely challenged at this time. I made the wrong choice, but I learned how I'd rather be. I will commit to acting in a way that reflects my values.
Bringing self-compassion into our awareness and working on this as a deliberate practice, changes the way in which we treat ourselves, and correspondingly, how we feel over time.