While thinking about how often life gives us the unexpected, it came to me that self-compassion is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. It is not a sign of weakness as some people believe, but instead, being caring and supportive to ourselves reveals strength. Kristin Neff, PhD, who teaches at the University of Texas says, “Studies show that people with self-compassion cope better when they are going through life’s challenges – including divorce, HIV, or cancer.” We are all a part of Friends After Diagnosis because cancer has been one of our life’s challenges, so giving ourselves compassion through warmth, support, and kindness leads to giving these to each other, which creates the bonding that nurtures us all.
What does self-compassion look like? How does it behave? Here are a few ideas. Our bodies respond well to physical touch, so putting your hand on your heart, or anywhere on your body that feels distressed, can have a calming effect and enable you to give yourself a loving message when you are in a hard place, having a difficult moment. We rest when we need to because quieting our body and mind helps us find clarity. We use terms of endearment with other people we care for — why not when we talk to ourselves? We take time to enjoy what brings us pleasure: friends, family, books, music, art, exercise, hugs, conversation, nature, etc. Then there is allowing ourselves to be imperfect because it is part of being human. The author Roger Housden says, “So why not give ourselves a break? Why not celebrate our blemishes, our imperfections, as the very qualities that make us human? No one else has quite our mix of idiosyncrasies. As long as our habits do no harm to ourselves or to others, there is no reason to consider them anything less than our own unique contribution to global diversity.”
Self-compassion also includes encouraging ourselves to walk as willingly into experiences marked by darkness as those that feel more clearly in the light, because both have gifts to give. In the dark we can’t see so there can be fear of the unknown, but think of the many ways new life begins by being nurtured in the dark. The author Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light. New life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground or a baby in the womb, it starts in the dark.” With Easter just ended we could also add resurrection from a dark cave. Note that the dark leads to the light that the seed needs to continue developing. I’d like to suggest that both light and dark hold the capacity to nurture self-compassion and offer comfort.
How do you give yourself a break, and in what ways do you practice self-compassion? Let’s share our ideas in the comment section because I have only touched the surface of this subject. What I know for sure is that when I lighten up on myself, give myself a break, and practice self-compassion, I am happier, healthier, calmly centered and more productive. That’s called quality of life!
Until Next Time – Sylvia