Self-compassion is an inside job. I’ve learned that if I am gentle with myself, the world becomes a gentler place. I invite you to experience it too.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ~Jack Kornfield
I never wanted to see a therapist. I imagined settling onto the storied couch and seeing dollar signs appear in concerned eyes as I listed the family history of mental illness, addiction, and abuse. I feared I’d be labeled before I’d ever been heard.
But after experiencing the emotional shock of witnessing a murder, I knew I needed a space to grieve. So I gathered all of my courage and laid myself bare to a very nice woman who had Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements on her coffee table. I trusted her.
if you look behind every strong anti-empathy feeling – fear, anger, rage, frustration, resentment, disappointment, hurt, and hostility – you’ll find beliefs. Beliefs are the activators of feelings – and they drive all of our behaviors and decision-making.
Some beliefs are empathy-killers
I talk about empathy in all the work that I do. In discussions about empathy in the workplace people often claim “my co-workers just don’t have any empathy.” These are statements of belief – not facts. What my workplace discussions often reveal is how much people act on those beliefs without any question or attempt to substantiate their claims. Ample scientific research has shown that we’re “hard-wired” for empathy. Without it, we could not engage in successful social cooperation – essential to our survival. While some of us may have developed more or less of it as young children, the roots of empathy are present, even if dormant.
One of the hurdles most of us run into when trying to become more self-compassionate is not knowing what “self-compassion” looks like. If you’ve ever been in a situation where English isn’t the preferred language, you’ve likely experienced having trouble finding the words to ask for/express/get what you want. Without language, it’s pretty difficult to communicate. You find yourself gesturing and pointing and feeling distressed and frustrated. So, when you’re in the process of changing your relationship to yourself, you’ll likely experience similar feelings. Remember trying to learn French or Spanish or Japanese or ASL? It didn’t come naturally; it was foreign. By Megan Bruneau •
Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Kristin Neff, a professor of human development and culture at the University of Texas and a practitioner of Buddhist meditation. The recent book and documentary The Horse Boy illustrate her and her family’s adventure with autism. With Sounds True, Kristin has created the audio program Self-Compassion Step-by-Step, which includes clinical [...]
I first encountered Cigdem Kobu's work by way of an amazing project she created in 2012, A Year With Myself. That fall, I did Reset.
1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?
For me, self-compassion is keeping a caring, gentle eye on my most important needs and desires – big or small and inner or outer – and giving myself the permission to do more of what brings me ease and energy, and less of what drains me.
Most of what I am about to tell you is contrary to what you might have been taught or have come to believe in. I have to share this with you because it's just too good not to and because it's something that we need to place more emphasis on.
All you "need" is a practice of self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff spoke brilliantly at the Stanford University CCARE, Business and Compassion Conference. She addressed how our global evaluation of self-worth breeds an internal negative dialogue of, 'Am I good enough?' She says that this sets us up for social comparison and nasty social dynamics. It breeds the idea that we need to be "special" or "above average" in order to be acceptable -- not to mention what it's done to further instill narcissism, which appears to be on the rise.
And what happens when we fail? This concept of self-esteem is contingent upon our success. We are "not allowed" to fail. Well, I'm here to share with you that it doesn't have to be this way...
The lack of self-compassion could be a contributing factor in the development of homesickness, according to a recent study.
Self-compassion is defined in the study as "the degree to which people treat themselves kindly during distressing situations." The study found that having self-compassion could potentially help many new college students adapt to campus life, thereby improving their overall college experience.
Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is an associate professor in human development and culture at the University of Texas, Austin, and the author of the book "Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind" (William Morrow, 2011).
This talk is from the "Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion" conference on March 8, 2013. The Greater Good Science Center co-hosted this conference with Mindful magazine.
Do you treat yourself gently? Do you acknowledge the sources of distress in your life? Learn self-compassion and begin to heal.
This article is the third in a series that aims to look at the concept and development of self-compassion. We’ve defined compassion as a tenderhearted recognition of pain or distress, coupled with a desire to alleviate it. The first article looked at the concept of compassion as a whole while the second explored growing compassion through recognizing limits. This article will look at the first part of our definition of compassion: having tenderheartedness toward your distress.
The type of tenderheartedness that is integral to compassion is more than a soft emotion: it is a relational stance.
Do you regularly try to motivate yourself with self-criticism and mental projections about all the bad things that will happen to you if you don’t get it together? While this approach may create that extra surge of adrenaline to meet your work deadline, cold call the next potential client, get to the gym, or get your house cleaned before the in-laws visit, it comes at a cost. You end up feeling bad about yourself a lot of the time.
You get into constant “fight or flight” mode, trying to avoid the negative imagined consequences, which messes with your cortisol and other stress hormones. You get overwhelmed, and decide to zone out playing video games or posting mindlessly on social media, or you rebel and eat, drink, or spend too much, thus creating more self-disgust. If this sounds familiar, perhaps you need a healthy dose of self-compassion.
Intimate partner abuse is a significant public health issue that is associated with a number of negative emotional responses (such as self-blame and shame), as well as mental health outcomes (such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicidality). Although not commonly utilized with survivors of intimate partner abuse (IPA), current research indicates that mindful self-compassion (MSC), a concept embodied by the principles of self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness, can improve emotional responses and mental health outcomes for individuals who have experienced trauma.
We lay out the research and potential benefits of using MSC as a healing technique for those who have experienced IPA. Intervention strategies to assist survivors in applying MSC are offered as tools for practitioners in working with survivors. Recommendations are made to guide future research in this area.
Many people who extend caring, kindness and compassion toward others, often have difficulty extending compassion to themselves. Sound familiar? The good news is we can learn to be kinder to ourselves. It is possible to help train our brain to respond to our difficulties or suffering so we feel happier rather than more miserable. Health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, spoke about the brain studies showing the importance of self-compassion and how it helps us succeed at our goals and increase our happiness at the Stanford Happiness Conference. Different regions of the brain are activated by the type of response we have toward our daily challenges.
If we take a self-critical or harsh approach when something bad happens, saying, ‘it’s all my fault” or “what’s wrong with me” and “I should have been better,” the reactive mode of our brain is triggered. This mode is one of defense, threat and self-judgement. If we take a self-nurturing approach when we suffer a rejection, saying, “I can see how disappointed you feel “or “I know the hard work and preparation I did,” the responsive mode of the brain lights up. This mode is one of acceptance and encouragement.
Perhaps the reason I’m focusing on self-compassion today is as an act of forgiveness for the failure to write blogs these last months. I have been busy with clients, with my family, and with my drive to finish our new book (which we did this week!) and I have had no energy for anything else. And yet even though I’ve ignored the “post a blog” item in my to-do list for months, it took my breath away to see how long it had been since I have actually written one. I felt the wave of self-recrimination building. Which might partially explain my interest in singing the self-compassion song here.
Self-compassion practices aren't hard; you just have to remember to do them. That's why I love these self-compassion techniques. They're quick and easy, and they make a difference in my day.
1. One technique I use daily is a gentle touch on my skin (maybe touch my forearm with my other hand) while I say something reassuring to myself. The touch actually releases oxytocin and sets off a calming response in the body. I discretely do this at work when I’m stressed (at home I may give myself a big hug!)
Brene Brown also introduced me to Dr. Kristin Neff (www.self-compassion.com) whose book Self Compassion: Stop Beaing Yourself Up and Leave Insecurities behind is also research based but written with many stories to show in a concrete fashion how brutally we treat ourselves. It is a book that reminds us that the Golden Rule goes in two directions — we can’t love others unless we love ourselves. If you’re a perfectionist and not very tolerant of your own humanity this book will open your eyes and se you free. Sometimes we just have to remind ourselves to be compassionate to ourselves.
Welcome to the Center for Mindful Self-Compassion!
The Center for Mindful Self-Compassion provides information about Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), an 8-week program designed to cultivate self-compassion skills for daily life. Founded in 2012 by Kristin Neff, PhDand Christopher K. Germer, PhD, the center is a place where people can access self-compassion resources, discover MSC programs in their area, and explore MSC teacher training.
Bad things happen to good people. As much as we wish it weren't true, it's a reality of life. New research shows that one of the best ways to manage…
How to become more self-compassionate
Practice. Practice. Practice. Most of us have lots of opportunities to be kinder to ourselves. When your day is full of self-critical comments, work on listening in to what’s happening in your mind. Then practice being kind and understanding to yourself – just as you would a young child still figuring out their way in the world. It only takes a few instances of self-compassion to change your day and bring in more light.
Harvard psychologist Christopher Germer, in his book The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, suggests that there are five ways to bring self-compassion into your life: via physical, mental, emotional, relational, and spiritual methods. He and other experts have proposed a variety of ways to foster self-compassion.
Here are a few:
Comfort your body.
Eat something healthy. Lie down and rest your body. Massage your own neck, feet, or hands. Take a walk. Anything you can do to improve how you feel physically gives you a dose of self-compassion.
Write a letter to yourself.
Describe a situation that caused you to feel pain (a breakup with a lover, a job loss, a poorly received presentation). Write a letter to yourself describing the situation without blaming anyone. Acknowledge your feelings.
Give yourself encouragement.
If something bad or painful happens to you, think of what you would say to a good friend if the same thing happened to him or her. Direct these compassionate responses toward yourself.
This is the nonjudgmental observation of your own thoughts, feelings, and actions, without trying to suppress or deny them. When you look in the mirror and don't like what you see, accept the bad with the good with a compassionate attitude.
More than a few of those students will suffer homesickness, which can turn into depression, low motivation, insomnia, stomach aches and loneliness -- and their dropout rates are three times higher than non-homesick students, according to one 1993 study. Three Duke University researchers examined one possible solution to the problem:self-compassion. Their results appeared in the journal Self and Identity.
According to Kristin Neff, a University of Texas psychologist and author of the 2011 book Self-Compassion, the three features of self-compassion are kindness toward oneself, a sense of common humanity with others and mindfulness -- that is, awareness and acceptance of your own feelings. Her research has found that each of these components buffer people against negative reactions to undesired events, like failure, humiliation and rejection -- all situations that are pretty common during the first year of college.
A recent study suggests that when new college students are kind to themselves, they're less likely to suffer from homesickness.
This fall, a record 21.8 million students are estimated to be attending American colleges and universities. Many are leaving home for the first time, and they’re exploring a new environment, forging new relationships, doing their own laundry, and experiencing “the real world.”
More than a few of those students will suffer homesickness, which can turn into depression, low motivation, insomnia, stomach aches, and loneliness—and their dropout rates are three times higher than non-homesick students, according to one 1993 study.
Three Duke University researchers examined one possible solution to the problem: self-compassion. Their results appeared in the journal Self and Identity.
(2013). Self-compassion, empathy, and helping intentions. The Journal of Positive Psychology. ???aop.label???. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2013.831465
The trait of self-compassion has three components: (1) kindness toward oneself when facing pain or failure; (2) perceiving one’s experiences as part of a larger human experience rather than feeling isolated; and (3) holding painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness. The present research explores if self-compassion predicts willingness to help others and empathy for others in need of help.
Study 1 found that self-compassion predicted greater willingness to help a hypothetical person while simultaneously reducing empathy for that person. Study 2 used a more nuanced measure of empathy and found that self-compassion was only related to feeling less personal distress in response to someone else’s emergency.
In addition, in Study 2, self-compassion only predicted greater helping intentions when the target was at fault for the emergency. Lastly, both self-compassion and empathy were uniquely related to participants’ willingness to help an individual in need.
Without that self-compassion, she might never have put her needs first. Now, her life-changing walk is a reminder to cut herself some slack. But as she points out, you don't have to trek through two countries to have that epiphany. "It could be yoga, it could be anything. Whatever does it for you, take the time to do it.
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