What do you do when life throws some curveballs at you? Maybe you learned that somebody you considered a dear friend has been spreading falsehoods about you; perhaps a co-worker attacked your character, or some past mistake has once again caught up with you. The number of scenarios I could list is endless.
Difficulties and challenges are part of the human condition. When people we love go through problems, we tend to show up for them and bring with us a heaping load of empathy and compassion. But how do you deal with yourself when life gets hard? Compassion for others is a beautiful thing and so vital in today’s world. But what I want to speak about today is self-compassion. We tend to talk a great deal about self-care, self-love, and self-acceptance. But what about self-compassion? Why is it vital in our spiritual journey, and how can we learn to cultivate it?
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I speak to many women every week that tell me they are learning to love themselves and prioritizing their self-care. Then they share with me how harshly they judge themselves for every misstep, for feeling out of alignment, for not being at their best or for making unhealthy choices. They beat themselves up for showing up less than perfect, and they shame themselves for it.
We all have days when we ate more sugar than we intended, didn’t exercise even though we promised ourselves we would or snapped at our children after an exhausting day. What we need on days like that, is not to go into a shame spiral and to beat ourselves up for being human. What is needed on days like that is a healthy dose of self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a spiritual superpower and essential in changing behavior patterns and cultivating self-love. When we learn to be more compassionate with ourselves, we become more peaceful and at ease in our life. Self-judgement and self-attacks take a tremendous amount of energy. When you gain self-compassion, you become less judgmental of others and more open to their pain.
Living in that state of grace also brings you the energy needed to show up fully for yourself and those around you. Self-compassion demands a tremendous amount of vulnerability. It requires you to show up authentically and let the world see who you truly are. To show up with that amount of rawness is the most significant gift you can bring to this world and your loved ones.
How do you cultivate self-compassion?
The first step in cultivating it is becoming aware of your feelings. When you are feeling difficult emotions, it’s always because something triggered an old wound. Rather than getting lost in the story or the judgment, the first step becomes checking in with what you are feeling. It’s essential to name your feelings and can be as simple as saying, “I’m sad” or “I’m feeling hopeless.” The goal is to get beneath the story to the feeling. Once you can get to the feeling, it becomes easier to recognize the old wound that was activated.
Bring comfort to yourself
Once you have identified the painful feeling, talk to yourself the way you would to an innocent child that is hurting. Bring your hand to your heart and feel that tender hurting part of you. Then speak to yourself compassionately. What would you say to a young child in pain? What energy would you bring to that child? Then do that for yourself.
For example, when I’m practicing self-compassion, it may sound like this:
“I’m sorry you are feeling helpless at this moment. Feeling helpless is one of your old wounds. It’s okay to be hurting. It may feel uncomfortable right now, but it is simply here to show you where there is still some healing to be done. I love you and your tender heart. This will pass. In the meantime, I will hold you safe.”
By giving yourself the self-love and compassion you need, you can release the pain faster and gain clarity to what triggered it and heal it on a deeper level. By using soothing self-talk, you will be able to access your higher self and regain a state of grace much faster than self-judgment and self-attack ever could. Compassion brings you to a place of ease because you’re not resisting what is happening. Instead, you open up to your current experience and allowing it to flow through you. You can use self-compassion on days that you feel you may have failed in some way, during a time of grief, or when another is judging you. Any situation that would pull forward a response of empathy or compassion for another would be the perfect time to bring compassion to yourself.