Do you need more self-compassion?

If you’re like many of us, you may not realize your self-compassion tank is running low, which can keep you from resting.

Sara learned she needed more self-compassion when she tried to extend it to others. She was a student who felt pulled in all directions, especially when she couldn’t sleep. Her advisor suggested that a loving kindness practice could change how she related to the world. So she went home and turned on a recorded meditation to guide her. But she didn’t get too far.

In the meditation (also called “metta”) you repeat a phrase, such as, “May you be happy, may you be safe, may you be free from suffering.” The focus starts with yourself and gradually extends through family and friends to those we consider our adversaries.

Unseen Holes

Sara knew she’d be challenged to share compassion with her adversaries, but was surprised at how hard it was to be kind to herself.
It started with her self-critic: I’m not a good enough person to be happy, I’m lazy, unfocused, and can be so judgmental of stupid things.
And then she compared her privileges to the world: Others were suffering much more than she was. Why did she deserve to be happy or safe when so many lived lives of danger and degradation?
Without self-compassion, she carried around unseen holes in her life. Such as self-criticism, comparisons, and difficulty experiencing gratitude for her life. Those holes kept her from fully living, from really doing what she wanted to do. And kept her from resting at night as well.


Kind, encouraging friend to oneself

You might be in the same place, but you can fill those unseen holes. By focusing on self-compassion, you can directly rewire your well-worn negative neural pathways and create a more loving sense of yourself.
“Self-compassion cultivates the quality of being a kind, encouraging friend to oneself in any circumstance,” says Rachel Turow, PhD, author of Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD.

Self-compassion is not the same as positive thinking or self-esteem or constant confidence. It’s a way of accepting who you are, with your human imperfections. “Self-compassion is a powerful antidote to self-criticism,” says Dr. Turow.

One simple exercise she suggests is mentally reciting a phrase of self-kindness with each breath:
“Inhale, my friend… exhale, my friend.” (Or sweetpea or my love or cupcake or anything you might say to your doggie or kitty or someone your love.)

Another is to take a self-compassion break:

  • Remind yourself that you’re in a moment of suffering, a normal part of life.
  • Remember that you’re not alone in your suffering (its a human experience).
  • Give yourself permission to feel the compassion you need, just like a friend would extend it to you.

Check out the link below for a guided self-compassion break from Kristen Neff, PhD. 

Self-compassion and rest

If you’re like Sara, you may be swallowed by a hole of self-criticism when you can’t sleep. It may come across as “Why can’t I…sleep, solve a problem, stop thinking or worrying?”
Whatever it is, you’re feel you’re not okay as you are.

Sara used these self-compassion exercises to take herself off the self-critical hook. And that created rest and opened the doors to sleep, as a bonus.

Treat yourself as kindly as you can. You’re worth it.

Links to help you rest

Loving kindness guided meditation

Rachel Turow: Mindfulness Skills for Trauma and PTSD 

Self-compassion break

Other self-compassion guided meditations




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