I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up I didn’t have a class or a book to learn about how to be compassionate and kind to myself. Through the years and many challenging experiences I somehow ended up with a tough inner critic in my head that would bark at me often. Sound familiar? The good news is that it is never too late to develop a self-compassion practice no matter how old you are. The skills of self-compassion could have a big impact on successful management of life. Within the last 10 years or so, research on the topic of self-compassion has offered compelling evidence that learning and applying self-compassion practices not only builds resilience in a variety of ways, but may also lower risks of burnout and anxiety. Thus contributing to a greater sense of optimal well-being.
What exactly is self-compassion? Well, it is simply being kind and compassionate to ourselves especially when we make mistakes. And let’s face it, we all make mistakes. Kristen Neff, one of the leaders in mindful self-compassion, said, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings.” (self-compassion.org)
It doesn’t mean we are off the hook for mistakes but we don’t have to create a life sentence in our minds. We can use it as an opportunity to grow and mend important relationships. The next time you hear your inner critic criticizing yourself, take a little pause and ask yourself, would you actually talk to someone you love like that? Of course you wouldn’t.
A harsh inner critic tends to go hand in hand with anxiety. Slowly but surely though, if you are open to it, you can reprogram your mind and plant seeds of self-compassion to get it started. Even just one small seed can go a long way. If you are willing, try it right now, by placing your hand on your heart space and say to yourself any or all of these phrases:
“May I begin to cultivate self-compassion in my life.”
“May I be safe”
“May I be peaceful”
“May I be kind to myself today.”
“May I accept myself as I am”
Here is a lovely guided self-compassion meditation (20 minutes) by Kristen Neff that will walk you through the practice.
Center for Resilience Strategies will be offering a 6-week, virtual, Self-Compassion Boot Camp group in which you’ll learn the basics to developing your own self-compassion practice. Give us a call if you are interested in signing up or if you have questions about the group.
You can read more about mindful self-compassion and access a bunch resources including exercises and guided meditations at https://self-compassion.org/
Be gentle with yourself,
Nicole Marcisz, LPCC