Self Compassion. Where to Start?
If you were unable to catch my recent post about redefining resilience I suggest you do so. I wholeheartedly stand by my belief that self compassion is really what we need in order to be resilient.
Easier said than done.
Self compassion is extremely counterintuitive to modern day society. Especially in sport I’m not sure I have faced an athlete that isn’t their own worst critic. So how do we get started with this so-called self compassion?
In January of 2019 I committed to spending an entire year dedicating my nightly meditation practice to self compassion. Every single night. It was brutal to start.
Let’s start by defining what Self Compassion is. Kristen Neff, the pioneer of this work defines Self Compassion as having compassion towards yourself with the three core elements of mindfulness, self kindness and commun humanity. Essentially, we use mindfulness to attune to our emotional experience in a more caring way and remember that we are not alone in this crazy thing called life.
So HOW do you do this? What follows are a few things that helped me in my year-long journey cultivating self compassion.
1) Find an approach that is authentic and genuine to you
The first thing I would encourage you to think about is how does this concept of self compassion resonate with you? Many associate being overly “ooey gooey”, soft and anxiously kind with self compassion. If you know me you know that I am not ooey gooey and I am certainly not soft. I am loud, type A and fairly overbearing at times. So figuring out how self compassion worked for me is where I started.
I started by thinking about how my best friend or my sister might approach me in a tough situation. They know me better than anyone. They’d probably give me a hug, tell me it was going to be OK, validate my experience and then probably crack a joke and make me laugh. We have to meet ourselves where we are with many of these practices.
The times when I am the MOST self compassionate with myself are actually when I speak to myself like a friend. It tends to be simple and direct language and then I often use acts of kindness like going to take a hot shower with essential oils or going for a walk. That’s me. I don’t wrap myself in red hearts or sing myself love songs. Find what best suits you. I often tell my athletes that this is often done by simple trial and error.
2) Start off with Validation
Validation for how we feel is HARD to come by yet it is probably the most important skill you can learn. Validate your feelings. All of them. Every single feeling you have is valid. We are human and we have a range of emotions. All of them are OK. Do we have to necessarily act on all of them or sit in them for days at a time? No. But one of the first steps you can take towards becoming more self compassionate is learning to validate yourself and how you feel.
I find that creating time and space in your day to day for this can be helpful. In the busy worlds we live we may not always have time in the hustle and bustle to stop and validate our feelings as they come. This is where a meditation or journaling practice can be really helpful. This is dedicated time and space to go back through your day and remind yourself that how you feel or how you felt is valid.
**News flash - this will feel very uncomfortable at first.
What we are trying to accomplish with this habit is making the self compassionate response the default.
We are used to living in a world where comparison and criticism are the go to. Self compassion is the opposite of this, but it’s going to take time. I think everyone knows that when we are trying to build a new habit, repetition is key. I spent an ENTIRE YEAR practicing this and I still struggle some days. The work doesn’t stop. This is something that we must commit to and carry out on repeat.
Start exploring with self compassion. As I like to say… just dip your toe in the water and start with one thing. Validate one emotion you have in a day. Try one act of kindness for yourself. By starting to explore we will find what works for us and how to embody this practice for ourselves.
Stay tuned as I take you through a Self Compassion practice in the next Blog!