Self compassion… What is it?

in Features

In the difficult days and times in which we are living I feel it is very important for us to about, understand and begin to practice self compassion.  But what exactly is self compassion?

We all know about compassion… compassions for others , compassion for animals… but, for the most part, we stop short of even thinking of having compassion for ourselves. The most likely reason before this being that we grew up in a society in which we were taught to put others first and put our own needs last. Many of us were taught to ‘just roll uo your sleeves and get on with it!’  or ‘who do you think you are?’ ‘pride comes before a fall’ .. and so on. Children in the current times are more encouraged to put themselves first in an increasingly narcissistic society but that too, is devoid of self compassion. Self-centredness and self-compassion are two very different things. 

“Self-compassion is simply the process of turning compassion inward.  We are kind and understanding rather than harshly self-critical when we fail, make mistakes or feel inadequate. We give ourselves support and encouragement rather than being cold and judgmental when challenges and difficulty arise in our lives. Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy”. Kristin Neff

Self compassion is about treating ourselves with the same kindness and acknowledgement with which we treat others. Our expectations of ourselves are always harsher than our expectations of others. When we are dealing with life’s challenges it is essential that we learn to give ourselves the time and the kindness to take stock of just what we are dealing with and recognise that it is in the best interests of everyone that we do so. 

It is not easy to change ingrained habits or to silence the little voice which is so diligent in reminding us how flawed we are. But, as Kristin Neff points out so well, it is one of our most powerful sources of coping …. Radically improving our mental and physical well being.”

I find so often that when I choose a subject to research and write about that life gives me the opportunity to walk my talk! So, it is hardly surprising that I am now being given the opportunity to walk my talk of self compassion. And, I can tell you first hand, it is not easy.

My younger brother has had a stroke and I am his next of kin, his big sister and therefore his surrogate mother. It doesn’t matter that he is 60 years old or that he is a youthful, fit, active, healthy 60 year old, he is my little brother and my heart is breaking. He had a brain bleed three months ago and was making excellent progress, had come to stay with me while we worked on him regaining full health. He felt a bit odd one day last week and before we knew it, he had had another, … this time an aneurysm – a massive brain bleed – and given two hours to live. That was nine days ago and he has come through four separate medical procedures and basically defied all odds to stay alive. He opened his eyes two days ago and is focusing, letting us know that he is in there, still with us and not ready to drift over to the other side just yet. I am effectively carrying this myself, though I have a very supportive partner who keeps reminding me to be gentle with myself and to acknowledge the enormity of what I am dealing with. My brother’s life in its entirety, is balanced in my hands to a large extent. I am his source of communication and I am acutely aware of the gift that I have been given and therefore that I have the inner strength and capacity to help this man on his journey wherever it may go. And to do it with grace and dignity. For me to do this I absolutely must practice self-compassion. 

Do not wait till something so extreme happen in your life before you consciously begin to allow yourself some self-compassion. I have been teaching these practices for many, many years and yet still I am caught unawares. But this is my opportunity to share with you, my readers, the essential value of taking care of ourselves with love and compassion.

We can only give to others what we have enough of within ourselves and we only ever have one real relationship and that is the one with ourselves. The others are all reflections

Remember this ……   First is God.  Second is Self.  Third is Others.

Kate Mchardy  MA(Hons)  PGCE MSPH

Spiritual coach, teacher and healer.

The University of Light Group

Tel:   +44 7712889534

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