“Treating yourself like a precious object will make you strong.”
– Julia Cameron The Artists Way
Recently, I was asked what self-compassion meant to me. I usually incorporate the basic principle of self-compassion into my writing as it has become something I readily practice (read one of my posts here), but I have never attempted to write an entire post on its significance to my health and wellbeing. Byron Katie said “It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine,” and I believe this to be true; we are so generous in handing out compassion to others, yet we skimp on offering it to ourselves, believing we’ll survive without it.
Up until several years ago, and for as long as I can remember, I treated myself worse than I would an enemy. My inner critic (chatterbox, ego, unconscious mind, choose the label that works for you) was loud, proud and spiteful. It berated me with such a persistent, and hurtful, humdrum of negativity that I simply tolerated it, believing that this harsh self-judgement was the truth; thus allowing it to reign supreme. My inner critic was completely running the show and, in essence, I had become a walking, talking malady of ‘not good enough,’ ‘not skinny enough,’ and ‘not pretty enough.’ No amount of food restriction, alcohol consumption, controlled behaviour, exercise, or achievement would budge the belief that underneath it all I was fundamentally flawed. Deep down I suspected not everyone regarded themselves in this fashion. Surely we weren’t all walking around fighting off the words of ourselves? I longed to feel a sense of peace and at ease, yet everywhere I turned there my critic sat, hissing scathing words at me.
It was not until I read a book on self-compassion by Kristin Neff (find this, along with more interesting links here), and began working with someone who specialised in mindfulness and self-compassion (read about Heather here), that I began to see the depth of my self-criticism. Since then, self-compassion has become the final, fundamental, piece of the puzzle. It is pivotal to my sense of ease and wellbeing.
What is this thing called self-compassion?
Some might call it self-love, others self-care, and still others might call this thing nurturing of the soul. Whatever your flavour, I can guarantee that if you cultivate it and practice it with ferocity when times are good, when times get tough you will have strengthened that self-love muscle and will be better equipped to deal with life’s challenges.
Self-compassion involves looking inside yourself and listening to your wants and desires. Taking take time out from your busy day to do the things that make you feel good about yourself, that make you feel rested, healthy, and well, and giving yourself permission to do this. For me this involves taking time out for myself and fostering the creative part of me that needs to dance to 80s music in my bedroom, write, be with those I love, read books and cook delicious food. Have the strength to be courageous. Offer yourself words of encouragement and support, rather than scolding yourself with self-sabotaging words.
“May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be kind to myself.
May I accept myself as I am.”
Kristen Neff, Self Compassion
Self-compassion means removing the unforgiving glasses you’ve been flaunting for years and, instead, donning those forgotten about subtle specs that make you feel beautiful and happy. It is the softness you devote to yourself that initially may be akin to walking on glass. That gentle touch formally reserved for a delicate object; the tenderness and compassion you willingly give to a child.
Self-compassion means giving yourself permission,
to be brilliant,
to be anyone,
All it takes is an ability to soften
and be kind,
– Whisperings of the Mind