#Askingforafriend: What is self-compassion? (Part 3)

By Caitlin Rudgear
GCU Office of Student Care
#Askingforafriend

We’ve learned what self-compassion is and what it isn’t. So now what? Now the fun begins. Now we learn how to apply this new way of operating in the world, and we give ourselves permission to do so in an imperfect way.

I promise you will not get this right on the first try, and that is exactly the point of self-compassion. This new way of relating to our self is akin to forming a new habit, and that takes time and consistency to become effective.

There are a couple of important things to keep in mind when beginning to practice self-compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, the researcher behind www.self-compassion.org, reminds us that the first thing to remember is that self-compassion is mindfulness-based and will not always bring about good feelings.

What that means is that self-compassion requires us – particularly when we notice pain or other negative feelings – to “mindfully accept that the moment is painful and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfect is part of the shared human experience,” Neff wrote.

An additional tip to remember is that sometimes when we begin practicing self-compassion, the pain that we experience may increase at first. This is a common experience when we are learning to love ourselves – the old pain must get out as kindness and compassion is finding its new home.

If that pain is experienced, we have to remember to be patient and consistent with practicing self-compassion. Sometimes, if the difficult emotions feel too overwhelming, we also might need to remember to take a step back and ground ourselves by feeling our feet on the ground, focusing on our breathing and engaging in self-care activities.

Challenge yourself to try the following exercises with consistency; again, remember that it is OK if it’s not easy or comfortable. Additional exercises, as well as guided meditations, can be found at www.self-compassion.org.

  • Compare and contrast how you treat a friend when they are struggling vs. how you treat yourself when you are struggling. What factors are in play that cause you to treat yourself differently? What would change if you took the same approach with yourself as you did with a friend?
  • Notice how self-criticism is used as a way to motivate yourself to change an aspect that you don’t like about yourself (e.g., I’m overweight, I’m lazy, I’m a failure, etc.). Noticing the emotional pain that self-criticism causes can help you move to giving yourself compassion for the experience of being judged. Then, challenge yourself to think of a kinder and gentler way to motivate yourself to change. As Neff asks, “What is the most supportive message you can think of that’s in line with your underlying wish to be healthy and happy?” Lastly, when you are able to identify self-criticism, notice the pain that comes with it, then give yourself compassion. Work to reframe and correct the narrative so it is more nurturing.

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Resources:

Neff, K. (2020). Self-Compassion, from http://www.self-compassion.org/

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Bible Verse

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)

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