What is Self-Compassion?
The 3 Elements of Self-Compassion
Based on the work of Dr’s Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer
I very much enjoyed my training in Mindful Self-Compassion last year. I was lucky enough to do my training with Marcia Burton on the amazingly beautiful Salt Spring Island, off Vancouver Island, BC.
So what is Self-Compassion exactly? There are 3 parts to it.
Self Compassion can be defined as learning to treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend when they’re suffering. They may have failed, of had a loss, or be downhearted for some reason. Imagine how you’d be with them. What would you instinctively do or say? How would you speak to them, what tone of voice would you naturally use? How would you feel?
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. When we have compassion for another, it’s because in some way we feel there suffering. We allow it to touch us.
When someone we care about struggles, or makes mistakes, we tend to be kind and understanding. We wouldn’t offer harsh judgment or criticism. Imagine your response to a friend who is dreadfully hurt becasue they’ve been dumped by a partner. Would you immediately give reasons as to why your friend was really not good enough for them in the first place?
Sounds aweful, but have a think about how you respond to yourself in a similar situation. Is it not true, that we, in this western culture, are quite conditioned to treat others better than we treat ourselves?
Something which really resonated for me in this training was around one’s motivation for change. It’s Ok to want to change, to be better, to let go of limiting beliefs, be happier, more productive etc. But the energy behind our need for change makes all the difference. Am I striving for this because I believe I’m not good enough, unacceptable, unlovable or less than?
Learning self compassion gives us a new motive. To commit to personal growth becasue we care deeply for the person that we are, we want the best for ourselves, we want happiness and fulfilment like everyone else. How different are these two drivers?
There is suffering everywhere, and sometimes we are aware of it , sometimes not. Awareness, or mindfulness is one of the elements of self-compassion. In MSC training we practise quietening down and tuning into our own feelings of hurt and pain. We sit with them and allow ourselves to be moved. We let our heart respond. The word compassion literally means to “suffer with’’. We can suffer with others, and we can suffer with ourselves. What arises is a natural warmth, caring, and desire to help in some way.
So, self-compassion is about expanding our natural loving kindness to include ourselves! We learn ways to acknowledge and comfort ourselves when things are tough.
It can feel a little weird at first, perhaps a little self indulgent? But, when you think about it, why should that be the case? If we treat others in a way that we would wish them to treat us, why can’t we reverse this? Treat ourselves in a way that we wish to treat others?
The third part of self-compassion is idea that we are all in this together. When we suffer it is common to get sucked into ruminating about how bad everything is, how bad we feel and then, of course, how bad we are! But whether it’s your good friend or yourself on the ropes right now, we can know that we’re not alone. We can be sure that there are millions of other humans experiencing similar feelings at any given moment.
I have found this a very powerful and transforming part of the practices. I remind myself that suffering, failure, and imperfection is all part of the shared human experience. We are all imperfect, we all screw up, we all do and say things we regret. How good it feels to be part of a bigger whole, rather than struggling in isolation.
So there it is. I hope you’ve found this informing, inspiring and maybe even reassuring. Mindful Self-Compassion is becoming widely taught the world over, and has become a cornerstone of my work. I will be running workshops and trainings from later in 2019.
Please get in touch if you’d like to know more, I’d love to hear from you.