I found myself amongst a group of smart, thoughtful and evolved people last week and the topic of self-compassion came up.
For many in the group the idea of self-compassion was remote, self-indulgent or even self-pitying. It struck me that in our ‘pick-yourself-up by the bootstraps’ culture; “wallowing in one’s pain,” as one person put it, seems weak and even unsafe not to mention terribly misunderstood.
After all, we’ve been taught that self-criticism is a powerful motivator – use the stick and keep moving forward, right?
It was good for me to be reminded that practicing self-compassion represents a significant sea change in our current cultural.
Tara Brach talks about ‘self-hatred’ in this quote, which sounds like such a harsh phrase to me. Yet being with this group, and also reflecting on how I treated myself before I began practicing self-compassion, I understand it isn’t over-blown.
It’s grown out of a cultural that views vulnerability as weakness and it can have us responding to our lives with self-judgement and isolation rather than clarity and balance.
In practicing self-compassion, I’ve come to know an intrinsic self-worth that is highly stable, along with a powerful motivating force for growth and change. Self-compassion creates the safety my brain needs. With self-compassion my motivation for change is because I care about myself, not because I think I am worthless or unacceptable as I am.
Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don’t like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical. It recognises that the human condition is imperfect, so that we feel connected to others when we fail or suffer rather than feeling separate or isolated.
May we all grow a little more curious about self-compassion this week and turn to ourselves, even for a brief moment, with more kindness, gentleness and care.
Can you relate?
With great warmth