Are you a beginner to the wonderful world of self-compassion? If so, this article was written for YOU!
We’re all familiar with the concept and definition of compassion. When most of us think about what it means, we generally picture ourselves showing compassion towards others.
This could be towards people who are less fortunate than us or even when we witness the mistreatment of animals. We show compassion to our friends and family when they are having a hard time. We may even find ourselves showing compassion towards strangers in the midst of tragedy or disaster. But the concept of showing compassion to ourselves is unfamiliar to many people.
And the queen of Self-Compassion, Dr Kristen Neff agrees! In her book, Self-Compassion she writes that,
Typically, we are all taught as children to be kind and respectful to others but no one really gives us permission to show compassion towards ourselves.
So what is compassion exactly?
Well to have compassion, one must acknowledge that somebody (or something) is suffering. When we truly notice someone’s suffering, we feel empathy and often the need to help or support them in some way.
Being compassionate also means that we offer understanding rather than judgement. If someone slips up and makes a mistake – or acts poorly, we offer kindness by refraining from judging them or the situation. This does not mean we excuse bad behaviour. Remember, everybody is worthy of compassion (including you!).
Essentially, self-compassion is…
"Treating ourselves with the exact same kindness and compassion we would show a friend” - Dr Kristen Neff
And if ‘friend’ doesn’t work for you, try something different. Name a specific person you care about or even a pet. My personal favourite is replacing ‘a friend’ with ‘a stray kitten’.
We should treat ourselves with the exact same kindness and compassion we would show a little tiny kitten, wandering the streets by herself in the middle of winter.
Now just imagine you taking care of this helpless baby kitty, displaced due to no fault of her own. Are you going to yell at her for running off from mama cat? Tell her off for not wearing her winter coat? Judge her lack of mouse-catching abilities? Nope. You will take her into the warmth of your home, dry her off, show her lots of love and feed her a nourishing meal (No milk please! Despite what the movies tell us, cats are actually lactose-intolerant!).
I may or may not have used this analogy so I could include a photo of a baby kitty. PS. This is our cat Joe, he’s not as cute anymore.
My point is, the next time you feel like this tiny, misplaced kitten, go easy on yourself. Maybe you are going through a difficult time in your life? You feel like a failure, or inadequate or unworthy? Maybe you failed a test or didn’t go to the gym this week? You ate too much cake (although, you can NEVER eat too much cake…). Whatever you are beating yourself up about, let go of the judgement and show some compassion towards yourself.
Ask yourself how you can comfort and care for yourself during this difficult time?