How is it possible that we can treat others with more compassion and understanding then perhaps we show ourselves?
It is a familiar pattern – someone makes a mistake or an event unfolds and they feel guilty, and there you are, soothing, affirming and saying it will all work out. Yet, turn the tables, and it’s yourself in the experience of feeling shame, guilt or fear and instantly the inner critic steps in, berating your actions and seemingly affirming your believed worthlessness
Lack of forgiveness causes almost all of our self sabotaging behaviour
Mark Victor Hansen
One of the most defining experiences of self compassion, is knowing the difference between making a bad choice vs being a bad person. This is at the heart of our resistance towards being compassionate towards ourselves. This inner critic is likely to be more active if we have been abused in some way in our past. Someone who has trauma within their nervous system, will be quicker to jump to the conclusion that it is them who is unworthy, unlovable or useless, rather than knowing that one’s ultimate worth is not measured and not affected by mistakes or decisions you have made up to this moment
Self Compassion is linked to enormous psychological well-being and emotional resilience in the face of negative events. Those that are kinder to themselves, also have greater social connectedness, happiness and life satisfaction.
For those who work in the health industry as counsellors, psychologist and even Yoga Teachers, are used to holding space for others. Yet, it is common for those in the same industries to feel overwhelmed and exhausted, even burnt out, which decreases their ability to hold space for themselves. If the relationship to the self is disregarded, it becomes more of an effort to be there for others. The better we are able to new with ourselves and self-regulate, the better we are able to support and tune in to the needs of others which is a key component in the wellness sector.
A psychologist and and student of Buddhist Meditation, Dr Kristen Neff, has created the Self Compassion Scale (SCS) to measure Self Compassion. The three main components that define Self Compassion are (1) self-kindness, (2) a sense of common humanity and (3) mindfulness.
Self Kindness is the ability to be warm and caring with ourselves, especially when difficult situations arise. Common Humanity is the shared experience of human suffering, rather than feeling all alone. Mindfulness is the ability to be open with the painful feelings with a balanced awareness. Also, as we develop Self Compassion, we are less likely to rely on others to validate our own self worth.
Maybe for someone reading this, they are curious: What does Compassion feel like?
To have compassion for anyone means that firstly, you become aware that a person is suffering in some way. We then may feel moved by someone’s suffering, your heart might feel open and receptive to their pain,(this is different to transference, where you want to take the pain away from someone and feel it for them). Compassion is the awareness that suffering, failure and imperfection are all part of the shared human experience, and instead of meeting it with judgement, you meet it with warmth, caring and the desire to help in a way that may be useful and accepted by someone who is in pain.
In Buddhism, there is a meditation that focuses on unconditional love for all beings, including the self. It is called Metta which is a Pali word and means loving-kindness, friendliness and good will.
In metta meditation, we direct lovingkindness toward ourselves and then, in a sequence of expansion, towards somebody we love already. Somebody we are neutral towards. Somebody we have difficulty with. And ultimately toward all beings everywhere without distinction. This meditation assists with developing Self Compassion for others as well as ourselves. We realise that regardless of what we have been through, compassion is a vital quality that comforts and affirms our core value and the value of others
Below is a short version of Loving Kindness Meditation for you to listen. The meditation can either be done sitting in a chair or lying down. You might also like to rest your hands onto your heart area as you visualise through this meditation