“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” ~Jack Kornfield
Before retiring from the practicing clinical psychology for forty years, diagnosing and treating mental illness, I saw day to day, the scourge of self-loathing. Now that I’ve retired and am coaching and power mentoring fully functioning folks in their quest to live optimally in health and happiness, I’m able to look back and make with a fair amount of certitude about behavior change. Here’s one thing I’ve discovered. Self-compassion has never been more important to humankind. And self-compassion is ALL in your head — like every other human trait and emotion. Alas, “the link is what you think.”
We’ve moved from spending needless years “on the couch” waffling on and on all about what our parents did to us, to basking in the sense that we are special and we are all “winners,” whining about how we deserve to have more, and on to recognizing that ultimately we need to care for ourselves. Whew. What a journey. From blame and complain to responsibility. But we aren’t fully there yet. Thus the proliferation of articles, yes, including this one, all about how important self-compassion is for happiness and wellbeing.
In fact, when we accept that our lack of success in life is not our parents “fault,” and recognize that indeed we aren’t really any better than the person on the next treadmill or standing at the next desk, that’s when self-compassion helps…and actually trumps the “self-esteem movement.”
Research suggests that people who are self-compassionate tend to be more self-accepting regardless of their circumstances, while those who feed largely on self-esteem crumble when they face feedback that isn’t the best.
Now of course there is a connection between self-compassion and self-esteem, in that people whose compassion includes themselves tend to have higher self-esteem. They just don’t melt under the press of negative social comparison, and moreover are happier, feel more secure, more positive and not easily threatened. But remember that it all comes down to self-talk. You can wrap it in “minduflness,” but it’s all about what you think about yourself, what you say to yourself and how you rate yourself.
People who include themselves in their compassion feel more in control, are filled with more self-love and self-worth and brim with self-confidence.
This leads me to my WAM! What About Me method for achieving self-compassionate self-talk and the mindset of putting yourself first. Ever fly with children and hear the flight attendant remind you, in case there is a reduction in cabin pressure, to put the mask on yourself before putting it on your children? Take care of yourself first SO THAT you can be of genuine value to others.
W Welcome yourself as a friend
“You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~The Buddha
This means you need to begin forgiving yourself for your mistakes, errors, slips and normal human frailties. Remind yourself that you are a good person, that you are worthy and that you are lovable. Everyone has events they cannot change. Accept that it’s part of being human. You are a vibrating magnet…be sure you attract positivity towards yourself.
A Acknowledge your strengths and successes
Write your stories of success without comparing yourself to others. That too often leads to the “compare and despair” syndrome. You can look unhappily at all of the things in your life that you have that are troubling, or you can be thankful for the things that you don’t have. Make the wise choice. And don’t end a day of your life without insuring that you’ve filled your gratitude bucket. Make a list of 10 things you’d like to bring into your life right now and establish your desired destination. You get precisely what you ask for in life.
M Mindfulness promotes it all
Be aware of what’s happening around you in the absolute present moment. It’s been said that people who live in the past suffer with depression, while people who live in the future struggle with anxiety. Only those who live with an awareness of the moment find true happiness and self-compassion. You can clear your mind and free yourself up, filling yourself up with compassion for you and others, by simply paying attention to your breathing rhythm, giving yourself time to savor your food (try the raisin experiment and spend a full minute exploring everything you can about a raisin), and fully embrace an emotion without judging it. You can only build your self-compassion when you are aware of what’s going on inside of you. Then you can make a more informed choice about how you react to events, people and circumstances.
See? It’s ALL in your head. Complicate all you want with neuroscience, left and right brain training, mindfulness, but in the end, it’s as my grandmother so often taught, “Michael, it’s ALL in your head so stop talking that foolishness into yourself.” What a therapist she wasn’t, thank goodness. Or was she?