Since writing last week’s blog, I haven’t been able to let it go. I ended it with this sentence; “Self-reflection needs to be done with self-compassion”. I’ve been thinking a lot about that statement, and I wanted to say a little more about that statement because I think that this is a challenge for many people. I witness people being unkind to themselves and struggling terribly with self-compassion.
Let me first say that I have only admiration for people who come into therapy. It is not easy to reflect on oneself, and I am honored to be in the position of being trusted in our work together. There have been times when I have had to bring into awareness a challenge that one has within them; and I don’t enjoy telling them. (However, my clients know that I don’t enjoy it.) What breaks my heart, though, is when I witness someone recognize something about themselves and they immediately react with feelings of shame or harshness toward themselves.
So what exactly is self-compassion? It is simply being kind to yourself. It is recognizing the humanness in you. It is being empathetic to yourself when you are in pain. It is not shaming yourself when you recognize your flaws. It is not beating yourself up emotionally when you make a mistake or when you recognize something about yourself that you don’t like. I regularly witness people struggling with not feeling “good enough”. What does that mean anyway? Good enough for what? There is nothing wrong with trying to do better at anything in life as long as it is a realistic expectation. And trying to improve should not be met with shame. You will only make it more challenging to improve because you are carrying the heavy burden of shame.
All of us can find something about ourselves that we don’t like (but read my blog “the flip side of love” to help with these things). Whether it is a physical aspect you don’t like or a character trait, here is my question to you: How is it helpful to be so unkind to yourself?
When is self-compassion necessary? Well, since I am a therapist, the first thing I would say is self-compassion is necessary anytime you are doing any kind of self-reflection! And self-reflection is not only about recognizing what we need to work on within ourselves, it is also about recognizing the good within us that we tend to ignore. Self-compassion is also necessary when you make mistakes, when you’ve been hurt by someone and yes, even when you have inflicted hurt on someone. Feeling remorse when we hurt someone does not mean that we deserve an emotional beating as well.
When I suggest to people that they need to engage in some form of self-care, they often think that it would be selfish. That word “selfish” is used all wrong in our culture. Taking care of oneself, and nurturing ourselves is a necessary part of life. It is only selfishness when doing something for yourself ultimately causes harm to another. And here is a huge benefit that comes with self-compassion and self-care – those close to us actually benefit when we take care and nurture ourselves. Think of it this way, if you are running on empty because you take care of others and/or if you are exhausted because you work hard, the only thing that you will end up feeling is irritable, impatient, and tired. But if you engage in self-care aka self-compassion you will feel replenish, refreshed, and restored.
Self-compassion also means being proud of your successes. I witness people keep their successes to themselves because they don’t want to be viewed as bragging or full of themselves. I say, “Celebrate your successes with those who love you”. You’ve earned it, you deserve it.
Another thing I hear people say is that crying is a sign of weakness. This is simply not true. The ability to feel emotions and be vulnerable is a strength and it is a form of self-compassion. If you are sad about something, or if you are hurt and in pain, Remember: When you cry for another person, you do it out of compassion. Your tears for you are simply “self-compassion”.
Please practice self-compassion for you and for those around you. You will feel lighter in life.
If you practice self-compassion and you would like to share with others how you do it, please post a comment below!!
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