I want to talk about something that I know a lot of us on the personal growth and transformation journey are struggling with, and that is self-compassion. This is something that many of us want more of in our lives, but we don’t know how to achieve that.
Part of the reason why practicing self-compassion can be so hard is because, for most of us, this wasn’t modelled for us growing up.
For example, maybe when you were growing up and you got an F on a test or made a mistake of some kind, rather than being met with compassion by your parents or caregivers you were met with harshness or criticism. Or, maybe you were met with compassion, but the primary caregivers in your life struggled with providing self-compassion to themselves. So even if you were met with compassion and support from them when you messed up, they didn’t know how to provide compassion to themselves, and therefore, the idea of self-compassion wasn’t really modelled for you in a healthy way.
As a result, self-compassion can be really hard for a lot of us to implement in our own lives, especially in a culture and society that generally values achievement over self-love and personal growth.
What does it look like to struggle with self-compassion in your life?
This can show up for people in different ways, but one potential way you may find yourself struggling is, you may hold certain negative beliefs surrounding self-compassion, namely the belief that by being self-compassionate you are actively lowering your standards for yourself. You may feel that this will turn you into a weaker version of yourself, or hold you back from becoming the person you want to be. For example, if you find yourself making a mistake, then you may feel that by being compassionate to yourself, you are restricting your growth by letting yourself off the hook.
Another way this may show up for you is through your response to making a mistake. You may find yourself immediately jumping to harsh criticism of yourself, because meeting yourself with kindness feels foreign and more difficult than just allowing yourself to be critical.
This is something I personally struggle a lot with. I’m a mom of newborn twins, and something I struggle with is feeling like I’m a good mom who shows up properly for her children. I noticed recently that one day when my girls woke up early, I instantly felt resentful, and then instinctively went to berate myself for feeling this way. I then stewed in my guilt and told myself I was a bad mother, because I felt bad about my gut reaction. This isn’t a healthy way to handle these feelings – if I had practiced self-compassion, I could have gently allowed myself to feel the way I feel, and to recognize that it’s probably because I’m stressed, and overworked, and feeling the effects of the constant challenges of being a mother– that I’m also not alone in experiencing stress, resentment, or overwhelm in motherhood. Then, I could have mentored myself and said something along the lines of, “May I be patient with myself and care for myself so in the future I can also care for my babies in a more grounded way.” You can really hear the difference between the harsh inner critic and the open, compassionate response in this scenario.
What’s at stake?
Honestly, if we can’t learn to let go of our harsh inner critic and instead turn towards practicing more self-compassion, we end up jeopardizing our general sense of happiness. Constantly leaning into our critical instincts makes us begin to question our inherent worth. The reason we do this is because many of us believe that if we are hard on ourselves then it will help us grow and change.
However, if we are constantly harsh with ourselves and give into our inner critic, then generally our lives will be filled with more self-criticism, more anxiety, more depression and sadness, more frustration, and more numbness.
Research is finding more and more that self-criticism is not the answer to growing, shifting, evolving, and changing in positive ways. It doesn’t actually lead to any sustained change. Any desired long-term change or evolution of the self can’t really happen unless we have self-compassion for our mistakes and growth.
Self-criticism also affects our relationships
The harsher we are with ourselves, the more this can begin to bleed into the rest of our lives, and this often leads to disconnection between the people in our lives. Additionally, if we struggle with self-compassion, we likely also struggle to receive compassion and kindness from others in our lives.
So, again, what research suggests as the key to a happier life, to a life where we can more easily deal with the ups and downs without becoming more anxious, depressed, or stressed, is to actively and purposefully practice self-compassion.
Cultivating self-compassion in your own life
What would your life look like if you were able to meet yourself with compassion? Do you fear it might lower your standards or get in the way of your personal growth? Or do you wish you could meet yourself with more kindness rather than harshness? We’ll let you in on a little secret: more and more research is suggesting that self-compassion is the key to a happier, more peace-filled life.
If you want to cultivate more compassion in your life, check out Britta’s Self-Compassion Daily Grace meditations (https://corexperience.com/daily-grace-videos/) and check out our Brave Heart virtual 8-week compassion meditation course, which we are offering again in 2022. Find more information here: http://corexperience.com/cct-2/