So, what is self-compassion exactly? Firstly, it helps to define compassion. Compassion as a willingness to be present to the suffering of others and feel a sense of human connectedness. Alongside this, compassion brings with it a caring concern and a desire to help.
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So, put simply, self-compassion is compassion turned inwards. It is the ability to bring love, care and attention to our own pain and suffering, very much like the way we would to a good friend. Our suffering may be the result of perceived personal failures or general life challenges, but imagine what it would be like to have that wonderful friend, inside your own mind to help cultivate inner kindness and care?
So how do you cultivate self-compassion? One thing you can do is take a mindful Self-Compassion Break where you pause, notice mindfully whether you’re emotionally upset or stressed, locate it in your body and ask yourself questions based on the three components of self-compassion:
· Self-kindness (versus self-judgement)
· Common humanity (versus isolation)
· And mindfulness (versus over-identification)
Firstly, acknowledge to yourself, ‘This is a moment of struggle’. Then you can say something like, ‘Struggle is part of living’ and ‘other people feel this way’. Once you feel your pain subside, you can even place your hands on your heart or stomach and say, ‘May I be kind to myself’ or ’may I accept myself as I am’. A mindful Self -Compassion Break can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes and you can find guided versions on on the App Insight Timer by searching Kristen Neff.
Even though it may sound easy, it can very challenging to cultivate self-compassion. This is especially so when we are in the habit of thinking about ourselves in patterns which are diminishing, critical and sometimes downright cruel. When we turn inside and look at our minds, sometimes these harsh habits don’t just simply disappear. So, if you feel as though you could use more self-compassion, but feel confounded about how to successfully foster it, seeking a therapist who employs self-compassion in their work will help.
Jacqui Snooks is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist and the Clinical Director of Haven Counselling and Psychotherapy in Mornington. For more information please visit: havencounselling.com.au
Neff, K & Germer, C. Teaching the Mindful Self-Compassion Program. The Guilford Press: NY. 2019.