We are all taught to be kind to others and recognize the importance of that but how many of us are truly kind to ourselves? There are hundreds of research studies that show that self-compassion at any age is strongly related to well-being in adults. So how do we even begin to practice Self-Compassion? Kristin Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research, and she emphasizes 3 components of self-compassion:
- Be kind to yourself.
The best way to do this is to think about a friend who has had a set-back and ask yourself how you would speak to them about it. Try visualizing this. You probably would not say “it was because you didn’t work hard enough” or “you are not smart enough.” You would probably listen to their perspective, empathize, and do something nice for them with them. Treat yourself the same way.
- Embrace your common humanity.
Well it starts by remembering that everyone, including ourselves, makes mistakes and experiences setbacks and this causes us suffering. Being harsh with ourselves just makes us feel isolated and lonely, as if we are the only person on the planet with this flaw. We are all imperfect, and we all suffer. This is one of many ways that we are connected to every person on this planet. Self-compassion gives us an enhanced sense of belonging and being in the human journey together.
It is hard to be aware of how we’re suffering when we distract ourselves with busyness and rationalizing what’s happening inside us to keep us from paying attention. Jon Kabat-Zinn described mindfulness as paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose with kindness and compassion and no attachment to the outcome of our practice.
Kristen Neff speaking about Self-Compassion (2 minutes) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lnU4fZ3eiM
Try this: www.selfcompassion.com
Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind and see if you can the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
Now, say to yourself:
- This is a moment of suffering
That is mindfulness. Other options include:
- This is stress.
- Suffering is a part of life
That is common humanity.
Other options include:
- Other people feel this way.
- I’m not alone.
- We all struggle in our lives.
Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.
Say to yourself:
- May I be kind to myself
You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such
- May I give myself the compassion that I need
- May I learn to accept myself as I am
- May I forgive myself
- May I be strong.
- May I be patient
This practice can be used any time of day or night and will help you remember to evoke the three aspects of self-compassion when you need it most.
Ask yourself, there is no wrong answer
In what ways and in what circumstances can I be more self-compassionate?
Connecting to our faith:
Micah 6:8 And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Further Learning & Resources:
Bluth, K. (2017). The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens: Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger
Pollak, S. (2019). Self-Compassion for Parents: Nurture your child by caring for yourself. New York: Guildford Press.