What is Self-Compassion?
The word compassion means to “suffer with”….we all have the universal trait of being able to show compassion.
If you were walking along a sidewalk and someone in front of you fell to the ground. You become aware that this person may have an injury or need your assistance. You feel a human connection to this person - you know what it feels like to fall and be in pain, or embarrassed, or need help to get up. You offer to help them, give them words of encouragement, or if they are badly injured, you call 911 and assure them that you will stay with them until help arrives. We do this instinctively.
If a child runs to you crying. You become aware that they are upset and wonder why they are sad or hurting. You feel empathy and desire to solve the problem for them. You say encouraging words, or give them hope that it is all okay, or help them see that the situation is getting better already. We do this instinctively.
Self-compassion is doing this same thing for yourself.
Self-compassion research done by Kristin Neff at the University of Texas, Austin, found three elements in the practice of self compassion: self kindness, common humanity, mindfulness.
These are the same three elements present when we show compassion to others. You become aware that some one is in pain, you feel a human connection to assist them, and you are able to show kindness to comfort their pain.
Self-compassion is inner self dialogue that sounds similar to this:
I am hurting, in pain, afraid, frustrated, angry, anxious, or suffering.
What I am feeling right now is part of the human experience, other people feel this way too.
This will get better, I am on the road to recovery, it will all be okay.
Instead, if I fall on the sidewalk, my inner chatter sounds like this: I’m hurting, this is bad, why wasn't I paying attention, how could I be so stupid, I knew I should not have worn these shoes, did my dress fly up, is anyone watching, how embarrassing, I’m such a klutz.
Or, if like the child, I am upset and crying, it might sound like this….that’s enough crying, you should be able to get over this, get tough, you are so weak, you brought this on yourself, I knew you were about to make a a big mistake, you never learn, you are so stupid.
Becoming aware of our self-talk and showing ourselves compassion is truly a game-changer for finding inner peace, clarity in decision making, and authenticity, And, as you become more compassionate towards yourself, you naturally become more compassionate towards others. Then you realize that the compassion fix is the tool you have been seeking.
See the Compassion Quick Fix for a tool to practice self compassion and find other helpful tools under Practices.