If you’re like many people, you spend a good deal of energy and time beating yourself up! You may frequently engage in an internal monologue about how lame it was for you to have said something or how you’re not successful enough, or not good looking enough. This toxic internal self-speak merely adds to your troubles. Self-compassion, on the other hand, helps us build resilience to difficulties that have the potential to sink us into a state of self-defeat. When we make mistakes or experience a rough day, having self-compassion allows us to get back in the game and try again, rather than being swallowed by a self-centered swamp of self-pity.
What Exactly Is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is the antidote to self-deprecation. Sadly, many people put themselves down with self-loathing comments. In the movie Annie Hall, Woody Allen plays a character named Alvy who says, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” Some people think putting themselves down is cool, funny or charming. In Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, renowned self-compassion advocate, psychologist, professor and speaker, Kristin Neff, Ph.D., promotes a very different message. Neff explains that self-compassion is a must in today’s day and age. She states that it is very different from selfishness. Neff says self-compassion is comprised of three distinct ingredients: mindfulness, empathy and connection.
By now, you have likely heard the word Mindfulness a few hundred times. It is quite the buzzword these days! But what exactly does it mean to be mindful and how does mindfulness relate to self-compassion? Mindfulness means being aware of what is. It does not require changing anything. Rather, mindfulness means paying attention to or drawing our awareness to our own thoughts, feelings, reactions, emotions or surroundings, in the moment. Sounds simple, right? Well, not so much because we often go through life reacting without thinking. Have you ever driven to work and then wondered how you got there or not remembered anything about the drive itself? Often, we ruminate about something that occurred in the past or worry about something that could occur in the future, so much that we have little awareness of what is occurring right here and now, in front of us. Mindfulness draws us in to notice and become more aware of what is--a requirement of having self-compassion. You cannot have self-compassion if you are not mindful of what is.
The second ingredient of self-compassion is empathy. When we have self-compassion, we treat ourselves with the same empathy that we would a good friend. Why must we be quick to forgive our friends when they make an honest mistake but we hold ourselves to such high demands that we cannot do the same for ourselves? We are only human, after all. We pride ourselves on being empathetic to others’ needs, treating others with kindness and love, just as we should. Yet, at the same time, when it comes to how we treat ourselves, we are downright relentless. What would happen if we gave ourselves the same sort of empathy that we provide so freely to others? How might that change the way we operate in our daily lives? I believe we would feel calmer, cared for, happier and more peaceful.
Neff describes the third and final ingredient of self-compassion as connection or connectedness to others. When we notice our connection with others and appreciate that we’re all human and “we’re all in this together,” it makes facing life’s challenges more tolerable. Conversely, when we believe that we are the only ones in the world with a particular difficulty, we become self-absorbed, we isolate ourselves further, and we pity ourselves. In effect, we become more selfish and self-centered. Whereas, when we feel a connection with those around us, we have confidence that everything will turn out ok—that others face this difficulty too and if we can’t tackle it by ourselves, we know people who have already faced a similar challenge who can help us.
Take Care of Yourself So You Can Take Care of Others
I attended a workshop about a year ago led by Neff who instructed participants to think of the video that airlines show passengers before taking flight on an airplane. The video instructs you to first place an oxygen mask on your own face before helping others with their oxygen masks because if you cannot breathe, you cannot possibly help anyone else. Similarly, when we practice self-compassion, we are better equipped to help those around us. Without adequate self-compassion, we sink into self-absorption, making it more difficult to support others.
This is the distinction between self-compassion and selfishness. It is with mindfulness, empathy toward ourselves, and the recognition that we are all in this thing called life together, that we can practice self-compassion, and more effectively help ourselves and each other. This recipe can be difficult to follow but if you keep at it, the end result can bring you more satisfaction in life.
I am very excited that Compass Point is offering groups that will be using mindfulness to reduce stress and improve overall physical and mental health.
Mindfulness is a bit of buzzword at the moment. It may have popped up on your social media or at your job. What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the art of being fully present, fully aware, and fully engaged in this moment without judgment. Mindfulness allows you to reduce the stress hormone cortisol which allows your body to function in a healthier way.
So why would you want to learn how to do that? Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years but it is only in the last 60 years that scientists have really studied it in depth. What they discovered was astonishing and will be taught in the class. In short mindfulness has been researched and found to be helpful with improving:
Please note that Mindfulness does not replace your current medical and mental health treatment but rather enhances it. It gives you the tools to get the most out of your treatment.
We tend to look at the mind and body as separate but Mindfulness is a holistic practice that embraces the interconnected whole. If you struggle with any of the above issues, I expect you have noticed how when you are stressed your health is more difficult to manage and vice versa. If you want to find ways to better manage this cycle this group could be for you.
The group will meet weekly for 9 weeks and include a time of teaching and a time of practicing techniques. There is daily homework that is essential to getting the most out of the group.
Interested in signing up? Please give the front office a call at 513-939-0300 to ask about the next available start date.
Compass Point is now offering free weekly zen meditation. On Wednesday mornings from 10:00 am to 10:20 am. We have a brief introduction to the style of meditation followed by a 15-20 minute meditation sitting practice. After, we spend a few minutes discussing the experience. A small amount of time that makes a big impact! Walk ins are welcome, however we recommend coming about 10 minutes before meditation starts.
Below is an article from Alyx Beresford on the benefits of practicing weekly zen meditation shared from her blog, your mental restoration.
Formal Zen meditation is the type that I practice and encourage my friends, family, clients, etc to practice also. Notice I said practice…yes, sitting upright and still requires PRACTICE! The basic components are:
You can really meditate whenever your want, where-ever you want, with whoever you want. I recommend group meditation in the beginning…think about how much you cognitively know about exercising and eating healthy vs what you actually do in your day-to-day life…? I find that group meditation holds you accountable and achieves better results just as group exercise does! Most major cities have group meditations or a zen center to provide this structure.