Cultivating Self-Compassion

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” (The Dalai Lama) Self-compassion isn’t about being selfish or arrogant; it’s about treating our bodies with gentleness, kindness, empathy, and acceptance. It’s about loving ourselves with the compassion we often give others, but at times deny ourselves. Right now we are all going through a traumatic event and it’s difficult not to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Let’s acknowledge these emotions without guilt or judgement. It’s important to be gentle with our feelings. We’re in a situation none of us was prepared for, so now is the time self-compassion is most needed.

Let’s remember self-compassion isn’t shallow or abstract: it’s a well-researched and acknowledged survival tool. So let’s practice this tool with a few suggestions for cultivating self-compassion. First, let’s accept things just as they are and stop forcing life to do our bidding. When we stop struggling against trying to make life be what we want it to be, and just relax into accepting what we have no control over, an incredible burden is lifted and we experience peace and grace.

Our self-talk is another tool to use for self-compassion. Negative self-talk can easily pollute our day and, if you’re like me, some days I am my own worst critic. I talk to myself the way I would never talk to anyone else. This is the opposite of self-compassion. A shift to positive self-talk invites empowerment, life satisfaction, and lowered stress. Now there’s a good motivator for change.

Cultivating patience with an attitude of being gentle with ourselves also fosters self-compassion. As we continue to navigate this present pandemic, let’s honor our limits. Going into quarantine may have felt like the perfect time to start a new project or reach a long-anticipated goal. The more rigid our expectations, the more frustrated and angry we’ll be if this doesn’t blend with what we can realistically do right now. If we’ve discovered we’re not up for that new project, let’s let it go. Self-compassion accepts that what we want to happen will happen when the time is right. 

Self-compassion involves forgiving ourselves when mistakes happen. We all make them, and chances are we’ll make even more. Mistakes are part of how we learn and grow as humans. If we let our failures define us, we become stuck in an agonizing place. Let’s release ourselves from guilt with forgiveness. It’s important to feel free to try new activities so we can discover what we are capable of doing.  

Gratitude enhances self-compassion. Believing that the Universe wants us to thrive will make it easier to find the resources we need. This pandemic has definitely upped my gratitude for things both large and small. I’m grateful for whatever food there is in the grocery (my favorite brands no longer matter), mail that gets delivered, and humor showing up on Facebook. I think we are all thankful for the loving people we have in our lives, but let’s also be grateful for ourselves and how far we’ve come. Gratitude is a channel for compassion.

Part of cultivating self-compassion is keeping positive people around us. People who put us down are not friends and will bring out the worst in us. Supportive, encouraging people will bring out our best. Let’s spend time with friends who enjoy playing. It’s important to loosen up and celebrate ourselves. Play releases endorphins, which makes us feel good all over, and who doesn’t need more of that right now? Saying “no” to anything that isn’t right for us honors our own needs, and releases us from the people-pleasing club. Honoring the time we need to give to ourselves is having compassion for our self.

Right now we’re on a wild ride that is an opportunity for self-compassion. In the words of Christopher Germer, “A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.”

Until Next Time – Sylvia

The Dalai Lama
Loving ourselves cultivates self-compassion
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