Breath of Fresh Air

A Breath oh Fresh Air

Try a Little Tenderness

on April 14, 2017

“Show yourself some compassion.”

How many times in the stretch of a stress out have you heard this?

I know I have certainly said/sent this statement to many – and until lately I thought I knew what it meant. But as it turns out, I had never really thought about what the statement actually means.

What does self-compassion look and sound like? What does the tangible and healthy version of “give yourself a break” look like? And – how can we cultivate this when we need it?

I can tell you for me, self-compassion often equals removing restrictions and or rewarding myself. So it seems from my statement that self-compassion is something I consider as earned instead of being automatically entitled to it. (Not good!) But that’s not the only wrong part of my picture. My street to self-compassion steers into a rebellion of sorts, and it generally manifests as bad-for-me food. So my picture (not so) perfect self-compassion is me in front of the TV (aka mindless, mindful on mute), with a bucket of ice cream and a spoon. And dark chocolate covered almonds. And maybe even a bag of pretzels. I certainly don’t let my self-compassion settle for anything but everything. After all, life can be limiting enough at times!

I know I am not alone in indulging (abusing…?) to self-soothe. Somehow we have learned to associate self-compassion with rewarding ourselves. Now, if you can manage moderation in there, you are probably okay. But rarely is one (or even some…) of anything enough for most of us to forget about life for a while. Which seems to be another aspect of self-compassion – finding a fog and forgetting. We aren’t letting go and letting God like we could(/should). Instead, we are just behaving blindly. But is ignoring the problem really part of the solution? And is this showing self-compassion or merely enabling distraction? These two scenes do not seems equal, but yet somehow, they have become interchangeable.

None of this was even on my radar until I read “The Neuroscience of Building Compassion and Resilience” by Julia Samton.  In this article, Ms. Samton actually lays out how to generate self-compassion. Reading about this struck me, as her way was way different – and better – than my way. She presents self-compassion as an active process instead of a sedentary (sit on the couch!) statement. Here are her steps to practicing self-compassion: 

  • First, start with a few breaths to tune into whatever is going on inside. meditation
  • Notice if you are experiencing anger, fear, sadness or stress, anxiety. Where do you feel the emotion in your body? Start to soften that area, as if you are applying heat to sore muscles.
  • Next, think of a nurturing person in your life. Perhaps it is a best friend, a parent, a mentor, or a figure you admire, or even a spiritual leader you have never met. Choose a person or being who you believe loves and accepts you as you are.
  • Now, think of encouraging words that this figure might say. Let them comfort you and help you to feel understood. Give he, she, or it the heavy responsibilities you are facing, and let them guide you with their words and acceptance.

    mom

    The nurturing voice I hear what I need to hear from is usually my Mom’s!

Her prescription doesn’t promise perfection; instead she encourages us to practice this method and strengthen our resilience, allowing us to relieve anxiety and recover faster from negative emotions and experiences.

That. Sounds. Awesome. Doesn’t it??

So I took to re-examining my conceptualization of self-compassion. It was revolutionary for me to realize that my relationship with self-compassion was on dysfunctional auto-pilot:  that self-compassion doesn’t have to be earned, but it might have to be (re)learned. And that is isn’t a reward; instead it is a skill.

This is now a new part of my journey to be better (in this case to myself!) than my day before. My goal is to radicalize and reconcile my differences with self-compassion. My work in progress action is to practice replacing my self-soothing version of self-compassion with one that revitalizes my resilience; to try to channel tenderness when I need it. This will help make me better than my day before, which is the only way for me to be better to everyone else than my day before.

We can only wow our world if we give it what it deserves, which is our best selves. And strengthening our self-compassion skills by is part of what builds our bests.

 

Resources

Samton, Julia, M.D., (3.12.2017). The Neuroscience of Building Compassion and Resilience. INC. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/julia-samton/the-neuroscience-of-compassion.html on 4.14.2017.

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