Do We Really Need Self Compassion?

Self Compassion is a concept I had trouble understanding at first. I heard we need to cultivate self-compassion and I thought to myself “I am selfish. I have no trouble making sure I go after the things I want. How could I be struggling with self-compassion. How is this an issue for anyone?”

You may have felt this way too.


But the truth is I tell myself negative stories and I think we all do. I put together a cabinet for my office and one of the drawers doesn’t work right. It’s not in exactly right, so it doesn’t close all the way. Instead of working to fix it, I’m telling myself the story that I’m really bad at putting furniture together. Telling this story about myself is a lack of self-compassion. I suspect we all have little stories like that. Little stories we tell ourselves matter. You may say, “I’m a clumsy,” “I’m lazy,” “I have a terrible temper,” or even worse…”I’m unlovable.”

I definitely told myself that last one for many years, but not now.

These are examples of failing to have self compassion.

In ‘A Fearless Heart’ Thupten Jinpa PhD, Professor and former monk says, “When we lack self compassion, we are less self accepting, less self tolerant, and less kind to ourselves.”

In ‘Daring Greatly’ Brene Brown PhD says, “Self-compassion is key because when we’re able to be gentle with ourselves in the midst of shame, we’re more likely to reach out, connect, and experience empathy.”

I’m defining Self Compassion as taking care of ourselves while being attentive to the feelings and needs of those around us.

It’s not the same as Self Pity. Self Pity is narrow because it really comes from a place of being obsessed with yourself. It’s also not the same as Self Esteem. Self Esteem involves judging yourself and finding yourself worthy. Self-Compassion really gives us the opportunity to be honest with ourselves. It gives us the chance to say to ourselves, “I did this wrong and I’ll try to do better.” Instead of “I did this wrong and I’m a bad person.”

We sometimes have a sort of generalizing tendency. This gets in the way of our Self compassion and our compassion toward others. Like my example above, if I fail to correctly build a cabinet, then I think I’m really bad at building things. If I lash out in anger at someone I can easily tell myself I’m bad at self control. It’s stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. But there’s a lot going on and one incident doesn’t define us. One incident doesn’t define anyone. So give yourself a break.

In ‘A Fearless Heart’ Thupten Jinpa goes on to say, “In cultivating self compassion, we don’t evaluate ourselves according to our worldly successes, and we don’t compare ourselves with others. Instead, we acknowledge our shortcomings and failings with patience, understanding, and kindness. We view our problems within the larger context of our shared human condition.”

It’s all about loving yourself and having some perspective.

Self compassion helps us relax when we need to, understand our limitations when we set goals, and learn from our life experiences. Because if we’re overcome with self doubt or self pity, it affects everything in our lives. If we can just learn to love, care for, and respect ourselves…it can change everything for us.

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Fearless Compassion

Fearless Compassion

Compassion is something that we all agree is important. It’s fundamental to all religions and systems of virtue. We all agree that it’s important, but at the same time we so often and clearly fall short of really trying to embody it. When you see someone that needs help and you make excuses not to do it, or when you see someone being harmed and think “they had it coming”…these are examples of falling short in generating compassion.

What is it, really?

Compassion is a sense of concern that arises when we are confronted by another being’s suffering and when we feel motivated to see that suffering relieved.

In his book ‘A Fearless Heart’ the former monk and professor Thupten Jinpa says, “Compassion is fundamental to our basic nature as human beings.”

It’s part of who we are. At the core of our being we are good. We are not broken and hopelessly selfish as we sometimes think we are. We are good and compassion is our nature. It can be easy to believe that human beings are bad, that things are awful out there. But I’m here to tell you compassion is our nature. We just have layers of delusion that keep us from embodying that good true nature. We’ve all been kicked in the heart many times and it has made us feel like people are out to get us and vulnerability is a weakness.

We are called to be vulnerable anyway. An open heart is so important to our spiritual journey and opening our hearts is the way to cultivate compassion.

Jinpa goes on to say, “Compassion offers the possibility of responding to suffering with understanding, patience, and kindness, rather than, say, fear and repulsion.”
 
 Compassion is powerful. It can take us all the way to awakening. We just have to open our hearts and be Fearless and Vulnerable.”

Brene Brown said, “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center of meaningful human experiences.”
 
 I think she’s right.

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