Start with Self-Compassion

Today we’re launching the #onekindsummer campaign on the pod. This is a full transcript of the episode which you can find HERE:

This week we are going to talk about self-compassion. The Dalai Lama once said, “If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” Many of us could work on being kinder to ourselves. When I first got the idea to do this mini-campaign my mind quickly countered with, “Are you sure anyone besides you will care about this?” Gah! So, it’s definitely something I need to work on myself.

A lot of what I’m referencing today is from Dr. Kristin Neff’s book called, “Self-Compassion – The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself.” Brené Brown called it “a transformative read.” Dr. Neff is a professor of human development at the University of Texas – Austin and is a pioneer in this field, which she established more than a decade ago.

Let me start by saying that self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem. Dr. Neff says that “self-compassion offers the same protection as self-esteem, but without the need to see ourselves as perfect or better than others.” It’s also not simply a means to let yourself off the hook or justify poor behavior.

The first step is to check in with yourself to discern your current state of self-compassion. If you are struggling to feel contentment in your life, have trust or control issues, continually berate yourself, procrastinate, or consume too much alcohol, you may benefit from upping your practice of self-compassion. The primary point I want to make here is not to beat yourself up if you find you need a tune up! That’s not productive.

You need to understand that the practice of negative self-talk is an intention to protect yourself and stay safe – which is a twisted form of self-care. Every day we have to live with ourselves, so it’s best to really be a person we like. I have a cup of Yogi tea just about every night before bed and those tea bags pack a lot of wisdom. One of my favorites is, “In the beginning is you, in the middle is you, and in the end is you.”

Dr. Neff says that, “instead of seeing ourselves as a problem to be fixed, self-kindness allows us to see ourselves as valuable human beings who are worthy of care.” One intention in the practice of meditation is that YOU are not your thoughts. Your thoughts do not define you and they do not create your reality. That’s something to sit with for a while.  

Dr. Neff outlines 3 core components of self-compassion. Here’s a short passage explaining them. “First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.”

I encourage you to get Dr. Neff’s book if you want to learn more. It should be required reading for all humans.

So, how can we do this practically speaking? Here are a few tips to try this week – and even beyond. We can’t make meaningful change in just one week.

--Change your critical self-talk. Take notice of how often you are doing this every day. You might be surprises. Try writing a script of loving statements to read aloud first thing in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

--Do what fills you up. If you are doing something that is draining because you feel guilty, or bad otherwise, be kind to yourself if you need to stop.  

--Start a gratitude journal. I learned this from Oprah. Write five things daily that you are grateful for. It will shift your mindset. You can also just write in a journal or write a letter to yourself.

 --Adopt a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck has an excellent book called “Mindset” which illustrates the many downsides of scarcity thinking, which focuses on unmet needs. The opposite of that is a growth mindset. This is when people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work — that brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

 --Visualize yourself as a child. How can you nurture that child? Is your behavior of negative talk something you would say to a child? If not, then use that image as your guide.

 --Hug or pat yourself gently. This is a suggestion by Dr. Neff. A loving touch heals us.  

--Start a mindfulness practice. This has been transformative for me. I’ve been meditating daily since last October and it’s changed my life in this short time. Start by focusing on the present. Just pause. Look around. Be present. Sometimes when I’m driving I’ll stop thinking about my to-do list and look out on neighborhood and appreciate the beauty of it. I look at the trees and sky and feel immensely grateful to experience it. Our future is not guaranteed and we might not be here tomorrow to appreciate all of the wonderful little things in our lives.

I’d love to hear if you have any other tips or practices that help you. Be sure to use the hashtag #onekindsummer to show how you are spreading kindness and to recognize those who have made your life or the world a little bit kinder.