SELF-COMPASSION IN ACTION
Updated: Jan 10, 2018
When we do things that we later regret, it is hard to have compassion with ourselves. How many times have we made mistakes or said or done something we later regretted, only to reproach ourselves? "That was so stupid of me! Smooth move there!" The self-loathing can be relentless! It seems harmless at the time we're doing it, but it has lasting, negative impact on our physical and emotional health.
Luckily, I’ve been reading Self-Compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff. Using the exercises and principles can help us cope with challenging times. Here is a personal, real-life example of how a person can put these ideas into action.
• Doing a body scan during meditation – in addition to being aware of each part of the body, giving love and compassion to the parts that are uncomfortable.
• Soothing my disappointment over having to cancel professional and personal events due to a recent injury.
• “Opting out of” comparing myself to others. Despite the conditioning of our competitive culture, we don’t need to keep track of who is ahead or behind, above or below us. This leads to my caring less about what others think of me and how I measure up. Instead of seeing myself as worthy due to performance or appearance, I deserve compassion and love simply because I exist!
• Letting go of the idea that I must achieve certain tasks to feel worthy and acceptable.
• Recognizing that everyone struggles with something at some point in their lives. I am not alone in my suffering, which makes it feel less personal. I am not uniquely singled out for bad things happening
• Softening judgment for myself means that I can do the same for other people. I can feel better about myself and other people too, which makes my relationships with others easier and more pleasurable.
I have also found that a healthy dose of gratitude for what I have in my life is helpful. It keeps me from feeling self-pity and shows me that there is more to my experience than negative events. There are also many beautiful, amazing things in my life that I can focus on instead of misfortune.
I recognize that while it has been tough, there is no need to make it tougher by thinking unkind things about myself. As Drs. Richard Hansen and Rick Mendius write in Buddha’s Brain, we already have received the first arrow of suffering. There is no need to add to it by focusing on negativity, and judging both ourselves and others. If you have difficulty being compassionate towards yourself, psychotherapy can be helpful, especially EMDR therapy.
We have the chance to love and care for ourselves in a way that we never dreamed possible. Sometimes adversity and pain force us to change for the better, even though we would much rather learn the same lesson in an easier way. But maybe that is the point – without pain and suffering, we would not change for the better or learn or grow. If suffering can change me for the better, making me more compassionate toward myself and others, then at least I gained something from the suffering. It was and is not for naught. It is a part of life that is worth embracing just as much as joy, love and satisfaction. All of life is beautiful.
Copyright © 2018 Lisa S. Larsen, PsyD, All rights reserved.