What do you say to a friend that is struggling, failing or suffering? Most of us have great care and compassion when we encounter a loved one going through difficult times. We seek to listen, to comfort, to empathize and to help. We say things like, “I see how hard this is for you” or “You are doing the best that you can.” But what do you say to yourself when you are struggling? I am guessing it’s a bit different. You are not alone if you say something like “How could I be so stupid?” or “I am a disaster.”
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been teaching self-compassion, beginning each session with these two questions. It seems each group enjoys sharing their insights on how to support a friend. And then I offer the second question. Suddenly, body language shifts. Perhaps an audible “Uh-oh!” is declared as we together recognize that perhaps we need to flip the Golden Rule on its head. For all the care and compassion we offer to others, we usually reserve a healthy dose of judgment and criticism for ourselves. Do unto ourselves as we would do unto others. At least when it comes to compassion.
Kristin Neff wrote the book on Self-Compassion. She attributes much of the self-flagellation we impose to cultural norms that suggest self-criticism is a great motivator. As if when we give ourself compassion, we’ll just give ourselves a free pass for every one of our transgressions and end up lazy and broke. Research suggests that the opposite is true and I agree based on my experience. When we practice self-compassion, we snap out of the illusion of perfectionism and are more willing to take risks. More willing to try knowing that we might fail and failing is okay. Neff identifies three components to self-compassion: Self-Kindness, Shared Experience and Mindfulness. Check it out below,
The next time you catch your self-critic beating up on you, try the Self-Compassion Break by Kristin Neff. Simply come to stillness and silently repeat the following phrases,
- This is a moment of suffering.
- Suffering is part of the human condition.
- May I be kind to myself in this moment.
- May I give myself the compassion I need right now.
I’ve provided some additional writings, talks and guided practices that will support you on your self-compassionate journey,