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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