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Daraius: We’ve got a great team at Million Mile Secrets helping with posts. But I miss writing as much as I did in the old days! So here I am writing about stuff that I really care about. And which isn’t all miles-and-points related.
Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.” – Pema Chodron
I can be pretty mean and vicious. And petty. Not to mention critical and demanding. I don’t do this to others, but to myself.
So a few weeks ago, I attended a Self-Compassion intensive workshop by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer in Sedona, Arizona.
I find it hard to be kind to myself, even though folks tell me that I am kind to them. In fact, up to a few years ago, I didn’t even realize that I could be kind to myself! I couldn’t understand what “self-compassion” could possibly be referring to!
It turns out that many folks find it easier to be kind to others than to themselves.
What Is Self-Compassion?
Over the past few years, I started hearing more about self-compassion. And the change that being kind to myself could bring about. After I started meditating, I was slowly able to observe my thoughts as opposed to act on every thought. And I realized that my “internal voice” was extremely harsh and mean.
By “internal voice” I’m referring to the voice in my head which sounds like me and has a comment or opinion on everything! 🙂
So what does self-compassion or being kind to myself really mean?
According to Kristin Neff, it means treating yourself, when you’re going through a tough time, not achieving your goals, or dislike something about yourself, just as you’d be kind and supportive to a good friend.
Benefits of Self-Compassion
Folks who are compassionate and kind to themselves tend to have healthier relationships, more academic success, fewer issues with addiction, and healthier behavior toward food and sex.
Life isn’t perfect and expecting it to be always be perfect is a recipe for suffering. I find that Self-Compassion is a way to accept life’s imperfections.
My Experience With Self-Compassion
Link: Self-Compassion Meditations (Kristin Neff)
Link: Self-Compassion Meditations (Chris Germer)
Link: The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion (Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions)
One of the most revealing practices for me was to write out how I’d talk to myself. And then compare it to how I’d talk to a friend.
I’d say a lot of mean and angry things to myself, but I would NEVER talk to a friend that way. Why did I think it was okay to talk to myself in that way?
But I’ll Lose My Edge!
At first, it felt fake and phony when I tried being kind to myself! I was scared that self-compassion equated to being weak and that I’d lose my drive and ambition. It turns out that many folks have similar concerns, even though the research overwhelmingly shows the opposite.
Over the course of the 5 days, I was able to see and hold a lot of my “imperfections.” The shame and guilt at yelling…the feelings of unworthiness around relationships. Am I really loveable?
It all felt awful!! No wonder I didn’t want to feel it!
And at one point, I took heed of the suggestion to give myself what I needed during the workshop, and I went for a (manic!) run to feel more grounded.
On other days, nothing I “did” would make those feelings go away.
And that’s when I realized – experientially in my body as opposed to a mere intellectual understanding – that the point of self-compassion is NOT to feel better about myself. But to just be kind to myself because I’m feeling those unpleasant emotions.
I’ve certainly fallen for the notion that I have to be “perfect” – strong, emotionless, and always on. But the result was numbing myself to all other emotions by focussing only on the emotions I wanted to express.
It was much more helpful for me to realize that the pleasant emotions AND the unpleasant emotions are part of the deal we call life!
And to learn the skills to hold these unpleasant emotions in kind, present, and loving awareness. Realizing that we are ALL imperfect and that I am much more connected to others in my imperfection than in our (imagined) perfection.