Many readers have asked me recently to write some posts about self-compassion. I have decided to prepare three articles about this issue. Today you will read the first one; you will meet the truth about self-compassion.
The Definition of Self-Compassion
According to Wikipedia, “self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. ” In short, the word compassion literally means to “suffer with.”
Another term used here is self-kindness: self-compassion entails being warm towards oneself when encountering pain and personal shortcomings, rather than ignoring them or hurting oneself with self-criticism.
Compassion For Others
There is no difference between having compassion for oneself and for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like.
- Firstly, in the case of compassion for others, you must notice that they are suffering. It means that if you ignore a homeless person in the street, you cannot feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is.
- Secondly, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering. In turn, your heart responds to their pain. When you feel this kind of compassion, warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person are present here in some way.
- Thirdly, having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others in a case when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly.
- Finally, when you feel compassion for another, you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. You never use mere pity then.
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself in the following cases:
- when you are having a difficult time,
- when you fail,
- or when you notice something you do not like about yourself.
Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you present a different attitude, telling yourself
“this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself at this moment?
This attitude is better than mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings.
Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings because you are not supposed to be perfect.
More About Self-Compassion
You may try to change in ways that allow you to be healthier and happier. However, it is done not because you are worthless or unacceptable as you are, but because you care about yourself.
The most important thing about self-compassion is that you honour and accept your humanness because things will not always go the way you want them to. For example, you will encounter frustrations, make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals losses will occur. All these incidents are the human condition. They are a reality shared by us.
However, the more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will feel compassion for yourself and all other humans in life experience.
Self-judgement vs Self-Kindness
People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. It happens because of stress, frustration and self-criticism emerge in the case when these people deny the reality and fight against suffering. This kind of attitude presents self-judgement. However, when the same people accept this reality with sympathy and kindness, they will experience greater emotional equanimity.
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, instead of ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism.
Therefore, self-compassionate people recognize that it is inevitable to be imperfect, fail, and experience life difficulties. Hence, they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences. They do not take the attitude of getting angry when life falls short of set ideals.
Isolation vs Common Humanity
When you have frustration at not having things exactly as you want, this feeling is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation. You might think as if your “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes.
But remember that all humans suffer. Just look at the definition of “human”. It means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Furthermore, self-compassion assumes recognizing that personal inadequacy and suffering is part of the shared human experience, common humanity in other words. It is something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to your “me” alone.
Mindfulness And Self-Compassion
Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to your negative emotions in order not to suppress or exaggerate your feelings. You relate your personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, putting your own situation into a larger perspective.
It also comes from the willingness to observe your negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity which is called mindfulness. The name comes from mindful awareness of your emotions, behaviour, body reactions and all around you.
Mindfulness can be also defined as a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. At the same time, you cannot ignore your pain and feel compassion for it. Mindfulness requires lack of “over-identification” with thoughts and feelings because they catch you up and sweep you away by negative reactivity.
Think of something that makes you angry, frustrated and kills your peace of mind. Now try to look at this issue from an observer’s perspective, as a film broadcast on TV. Can you notice the difference in your attitude?
Do this for some more things which evoke negative emotions.
Credits to Self-compassion.org
In A Nutshell
Today I have presented you the idea of self-compassion which means being kind to yourself, especially at the times of life turbulences. Use mindfulness for practising self-compassion and avoid self-judgement.