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Self-compassion is an insanely powerful tool that is being under utilized by people. I believe in using every tool and resource to my advantage, to curate my own health and happiness and sanity using whatever I can get my hands on. And I believe that you will find that self-compassion, basically being nicer to yourself, is one of those tools that can change your life.
Wait wait wait! I can’t believe that I almost forgot. This is going to be a 6 part series. Yes, 6 weeks devoted just to this idea of being nicer to yourself, because it’s that stinking important. For reals. Each week you will get some new info, new ways to think about self-compassion, and new action steps. What will the end results be??? Well, self-compassion helps you to be better able to bounce back after intense emotions, removing limiting beliefs that are holding you back and leading to inaction, help you be more likely to take action, all while decreasing anxiety and helping with depression. <see resources at bottom for buttloads of awesome science>
Bonus: It also decreases your negative self-talk (all that mean stuff you say to yourself inside your head).
And here’s what’s crazy - even in this 6 part series I will just be scratching the surface of self-compassion, because there is an insane amount of science to support it as a practice that is worth your time. Nerds, I’ve got you with resources to help you dive deeper if you want <check the resources below>.
So, Dr. Kristen Neff is a leader in the field of studying self-compassion - yes! It’s a field of study. Neff states that self-compassion, “involves the clear seeing our own suffering, a caring response to our suffering that includes the desire to help and recognition that suffering is part of the shared human condition.” (2019, p.16).
I think that’s a very scientific way to say - self-compassion is this idea that when we notice that we are suffering, we are nice about it and recognize that all humans suffer and not everything is always going to be awesome and that’s ok.
In this case, I think suffering more broadly means that it’s anything that isn’t going the way you think it should go or when something doesn’t work out or when you are frustrated or angry or sad. And of course, it means more traditional versions of suffering like physical pain or loss of a loved one or loss of any kind.
If we are self-compassionate, when we experience suffering or failure, our reaction isn’t to be critical or get caught up in it - it’s to notice the experience and then be kind in our response and our sincere desire to help, in this case, ourselves.
This is basically the idea that it can be so easy for us to slip into judging ourselves - continually being critical to ourselves inside our heads that negative self talk, as opposed to being kind to ourselves, inside our heads.
Recognizing the difference between:
Self-judgement: How could you do that? What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you more like her? Why aren't’ you doing a better job?
Self-compassion: It’s ok to be human. I’m still learning. I can do better next time. I learned so much from that experience. It’s ok to make mistakes.
Shifting your mindset away from seeking perfection, and instead of approaching your life with judgment and criticism, we can approach it with kindness and love inside of our own heads.
And this is such an important one, as an entrepreneur as a business owner as somebody who is on their own, a lot. We can feel very isolated not only in the ways that we're living our life ( even if our life is a life of service, and we're connected to our clients and our students), but a lot of times the decisions that we're making the things that we're doing are very self contained and that can be very isolating, and it decreases our opportunity to see that so many other people, other entrepreneurs other business owners, other humans are also struggling or finding things challenging, or having issues or not being good at stuff or not getting enough stuff done that.
When we are acknowledging our common humanity we are becoming less isolated and interacting with more people, being a little more social and seeing what else is going on outside of our own experience. When we're isolated we're more likely to think those negative thoughts. And when we are acknowledging our common humanity, that we're all humans just trying to do our best, that can lead to more self-compassion.
And this is a really interesting way to approach the concept of self-compassion.
This idea where we are viewing our suffering or whatever's going on in our life, and we aren't viewing it mindfully. What do I mean by that?
Ideally, we are trying to notice what's going on with us, and then act on that. But, instead, we start to create a story based on this negative experience in the moment - we “over-identify” with the negative experience or the suffering. We start to associate some of our identity with it. Now I am NOT a therapist or psychologist, but I do have an example of what this might look like.
We are noticing something like that, say for example you have failed at making a sale. You had a client, and you thought they were going to buy and then they didn't. And you get really upset about this, you're really frustrated and you're angry and it can be so easy to then let something like that frustration that anger, and that lack of self-compassion become the story and you can over identify with that. As opposed to having mindful awareness, because in that moment what you actually know is that that client just didn't buy from you. Maybe the program wasn't right for them maybe they were just too busy right now maybe they just didn't have the money. There's a variety of reasons, none of which are the thoughts you might be over-identifying with of “I'm the worst,” or “They hate me.”
Those self critical thoughts that can be so easy to identify with in that moment, as opposed to self-compassion. It's the recognition in the moment that those things are just thoughts and feelings when you get off that sales call and they didn't buy and you're like, oh, that sucks. You are mindful of the experience, but it doesn't become your story, it doesn't become part of your identity.
These are the three elements that are going into self compassion. And I think that that really helps us to understand these elements, then you can start to really notice when you aren't being compassionate to yourself. When you are choosing for example, self judgment over self kindness, when you're choosing isolation this belief that you are alone, and your experience is yours alone and that nobody else is going through this, as opposed to acknowledging that "oh my gosh, there must be somebody else going through this." And then finally that third element. How do I choose noticing my thoughts and feelings, noticing my reaction - and dealing with that as opposed to allowing those thoughts and feelings to become the story inside, my head.
Next time you experience suffering or failure or negative self-talk, I'm going to challenge you to consider how you would treat a friend going through the same thing? It's a beautiful practice that allows you to check many of your negative thoughts and self-judgement - because you would never say half of the things you say to yourself inside your head to a friend!
For me, it comes down to this simple idea: am I going to let this be the thing that holds me back??
Kristen Neff, 2015, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself
Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer, 2019, Teaching the Mindful Self Compassion Program
You can dive deep into some the benefits in Dr. Neff's books above, but here is a helpful summary.
I wish you a healthy, happy, and mostly sane week!
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