A THERAPIST'S TAKE ON SELF COMPASSION
Updated: Feb 29, 2020
"Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings" - Kristin Neff
The way we think about ourselves and the way we talk to ourselves is the root of most of my work as a therapist. What limiting beliefs, self destructive, and detrimental thinking patterns have we taken on? Why did we take these on? Are our thoughts toward our self compassionate? How are they serving to protect us, and might we be able to choose a more compassionate way?
Let's take an example.
You've just finished a two week course studying a topic you're passionate about. You then have a final presentation to share what you've learned and all of your friends and family are in the audience. It finishes, and you are not happy with the way you portrayed the information. You're having thoughts such as:
"Why couldn’t I perform like my other classmates?"
"My whole network was watching, they must think I don't know anything"
"I can never be proficient in this field"
"I can’t believe this. I am such an embarrassment"
Any of these sound familiar?
This is a moment where self compassion can come in as a tool. As a superpower.
If we go back to the definition listed at the top of this post, self compassion means we 'are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings'. So instead of the thought examples above that judge and criticize, we might take on thoughts such as:
"I might not be happy with my entire performance, but I can still appreciate that I did well on some points"
"I am a little upset right now, but I am not going to punish or look down upon myself"
"I know I have strengths and weaknesses, we all do"
"I'm going to let this serve as a reminder that I have a bit of room for growth in the presenting realm"
"I know that this one performance does not mean I am incompetent"
Can you see or feel the difference? These thoughts are similar to how we might speak to a friend, should they be in a circumstance like ours. Let's break this down into steps.
EASY TO USE STEPS:
Our first step is mindfulness. Catching our thoughts. "Oh, I'm having a thought right now that is detrimental, rather than uplifting". This is the recognizing step.
Our second step is to acknowledge. "Okay, I'm having this thought right now, and it's okay, but I'd actually like to change my perspective toward myself".
Our third step is to replace the thought that we would like to change, with one that is more self-compassionate. With the new thought, we invite in more kindness and understanding. Again, just as if we were speaking to a friend or a child.
Over time, this structured, somewhat robotic way of going about thoughts, will become ease filled and natural. It can become your go to way of thinking and speaking toward yourself. We all have the capacity!
To learn more, you can explore Kristin Neff's work on self-compassion. She is my go to for all self-compassion related topics including exercises, meditations, and more.
Thanks for reading, more to come!