Are you like my client? She says:
I’m so generous with others, quick to share compassion and protect my friends and loved ones from harsh judgments by themselves and others (a sibling who chooses to travel rather than go to college, a friend who leaves a good job to start a business which is floundering, opting for a career or lifetime partner outside the family’s preference).
So why is it so hard for me to give that to myself?
Here’s what I say to her and to all of us (including me) who know self-compassion is important but find it hard to do.
#1– Remember, Self-Compassion is important because it is associated with:
• greater levels of happiness, optimism, life satisfaction, body appreciation, perceived competence, and motivation (Hollis-Walker & Colosimo, 2011; Neff, Hsieh & Dejitthirat, 2005; Neff, Pisitsungkagarn & Hsieh, 2008; Neff, Rude, & Kirkpatrick, 2007)
• lower levels of depression, anxiety, stress, rumination, body shame and fear of failure (Daye, Webb & Jafari, 2014; Finlay-Jones, Rees, & Kane, 2015; Neff, Hseih, & Dejitthirat, 2005; Raes, 2010)
• healthier physiological responses to stress (Breines, Thoma et al., 2014; Breines)
#2– Are you Self-Compassionate?
Find out by taking the Self-Compassion Scale (SCS)*. Following each item is a statement in bold print I added to highlight a characteristic of Self-Compassion.
Choose a number (1-5) that reflects your authentic self, who you are today, not who you ideally want to be.
Almost Never 1 2 3 4 5 Almost Always
_____ 1. When I fail at something important to me I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
Self-Compassion is all about relieving suffering.
_____ 2. I try to be understanding and patient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
Self-Compassion recognizes that we are flawed and imperfect and okay to seek help.
_____ 3. When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
Self-Compassion seeks to be fair and objective, truthful yet kind.
_____ 4. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
Self-Compassion reminds you that you are not alone or isolated.
_____ 5. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
Self-Compassion understands we are human and gives us the safety to explore our failings and learn.
_____ 6. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
Self-Compassion offers TLC (tender loving care) to help relieve suffering.
_____ 7. When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
Self-Compassion acknowledges emotions and soothes, motivating positive action.
_____ 8. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.
Self-Compassion encourages normalization so you’re not isolated.
_____ 9. When I’m feeling down I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
Self-Compassion helps to limit judgment and unwarranted negative generalizing.
_____10.When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that inadequate feelings are shared by most people.
Self-Compassion helps us connect with others.
_____11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
Self-Compassion recognizes we can learn from mistakes and redirects the harsh judgments and shaming.
_____12. I’m intolerant and impatient towards those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
Self-Compassion tolerates discomfort and knows patience is a virtue to practice while learning new habits.
Coding Key: Self-Kindness Items: 2, 6 Self-Judgment Items: 11, 12 Common Humanity Items: 5, 10 Isolation Items: 4, 8 Mindfulness Items: 3, 7 Over-identified Items: 1, 9
*Reference: Raes, F., Pommier, E., Neff, K. D., & Van Gucht, D. (2011). Construction and factorial validation of a short form of the Self-Compassion Scale. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. 18, 250-255.
Did you identify some areas where you feel isolated, tend to be critical, dismissive and less than kind to yourself? You’re not alone.
#3– Self-Compassion is hard to do because:
- Self-care isn’t a habit. The family/culture you grew up in was about survival and/or moving up in the world. All energy was directed at achieving and Self-Compassion was seen as a distraction rather than a motivational help.
- You grew up with critical messages from adult caretakers that: you don’t deserve, and you are not good enough. As an adult, long after those caretakers are gone, you’re repeating that message to yourself. Hopefully you are ready to challenge that part of you who is loyal to these old, negative beliefs you learned so well as a kid.
- Growing up you essentially signed an “unlivable contract”. You are exhausted at being everyone’s caretaker and feeling guilty when you say no to others.
- You think it is silly or unnecessary to be kind to yourself. You think it’s too woo-woo. It sounds weak.
- Problem-solving mode is your go-to way to counter challenges. No time for reflection or emotional self-care. You may think you’ll be less motivated to do the work necessary if you practice Self-Compassion. Go ahead– eat the protein bar before you start problem-solving.
- You’re just overextended and exhausted. Period. Who has the energy for anything?
The research is in. Self-Compassion is important to our well-being.
More research is on it’s way. In the meantime, why not do your own research? Practice the Self-Compassionate exercises by Kristin D. Neff . Start today with the phrases provided in the image above.
In moments of stress or bouts of inadequacy and/or some other emotional upset, (a misunderstanding with a client, a harsh interaction with a partner or child) repeat the Self-Compassionate phrases to yourself:
This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself. May I give myself the compassion I need.
Breathe and repeat again. Wrap your arms around yourself and hug. Or put your hand over your heart.
Yes, dear client and reader: Self-Compassion is important, hard to do and possible to start.
What I know is that you deserve your own kindness.
Compassion turned inward. Nice.
So, make my day. What do you think: Is Self-Compassion helpful?
I’m your go-to coach with a therapy background of over 30 years. I’m eager to apply heart, mind, behavioral understanding and practical wisdom to challenges– with yourself, family/partner or business relationships. You can find me here today. Drop me a quick line.