Sometimes the hardest person to be compassionate to is ourselves.
Compassion or, "noticing another person’s pain, experiencing an emotional reaction to his or her pain, and acting in some way to help ease or alleviate the pain” often comes quite naturally when directed at someone we care for or love. When it comes to the way we speak and act towards ourselves, however, we often lack this same self-compassion.
Dr. Kristen Neff who has written and done research on self-compassion explains, "self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.” Dr. Kristen Neff's helpful description offers us insight into how self-compassion can support us and why it is is sometimes difficult.
One of the reasons self-compassion can be extremely difficult is because we’re often our harshest critic. A lot of our self-talk can be filled with judgment and blame, which makes it hard to be forgiving and loving towards ourselves. It also often prevents us from acting in a way that will actually alleviate our suffering like asking for help. Self-critique can isolates us and make us feel like others won’t understand us and the lack of connection makes us feel worse.
We can use mindfulness to bring curiosity and kindness to the way we see ourselves and our actions. When we make a mistake and notice ourselves speaking harshly to ourselves, we can remind ourselves (the way we might remind a good friend) that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes often offer us valuable lessons. When we notice through mindful awareness that we're feeling lonely or exhausted we can practice self-compassion and give ourselves what would be most helpful in the moment.
Dr. Kristen Neff offers practices and audio recordings that can help us be more self-compassionate. She offers activities that can help us be kind and generous towards our body and practices that support greater understanding towards ourselves and the things we feel and think. Below find a list of some of the activities she suggests.
For more resources from Dr. Kristen Neff on self-compassion including video, workbooks, publications, trainings, and more make sure to visit self-compassion.org.
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ABOUT ARGOS GONZÁLEZ:
Argos Gonzalez is a teacher, lecturer, and mindfulness and yoga instructor. He has 13 years of experience teaching high school in the Bronx and teaches pre-service and in-service teachers at Hunter College School of Education in NY. Argos is certified through both Mindful Schools and Little Flower Yoga (LFY), and currently serves as the director of professional development for The School Yoga Project, a program of LFY. For more information about Little Flower Yoga and The School Yoga Project, visit www.littlefloweryoga.com. Contact Argos by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.