Self-compassion. While on my self-help path, I found that this surprising tool turned out to be one of the most important practices I have used.
Self-compassion helped me help myself. It was the turning point in my journey—a path I’ve only crossed recently. The healing of my childhood wounds was intensified by the nurturing power of kindness toward myself. I strongly believe it was the catalyst to actual change within me. It was something I had never known I could give to myself.
What I was searching for out in the world in the form of acceptance and validation was already within me in the form of showing myself kindness, gentleness, and love.
Pro Tip no. 1: Ask yourself if you are being kind to yourself.
>> Are you giving yourself the same kindness you give freely to those you care about?
>> Do you believe that you deserve to have a good life?
>> Do you think you have to prove yourself somehow?
>> Are you ashamed of yourself in any way?
These are powerful questions to ask yourself. Keep asking them of yourself and allow yourself see the answer. Becoming aware of the level of kindness and gentleness you give yourself will open the door to understanding that you are allowed to show yourself compassion and that you deserve to give yourself more than what you give to others.
Beneath so many of my feelings was this underlying shame. I felt bad about feeling bad. I was embarrassed by myself. I was ashamed of the feelings I had. I was angry at myself for not being happy and positive all the time. I was frustrated and annoyed at myself for needing to figure myself out.
I did not like myself at all. I didn’t like my negative feelings. I was extremely unkind to myself. When I think about it now, it’s crazy to see how I was speaking to myself. I would never have talked to anyone else the way I was talking to myself in my mind. I put on an outward show of being this happy, positive, cheerful, free-spirited yoga chick, yet on the inside I hated myself.
Eventually I couldn’t pull that image off anymore. I crashed and burned. I went into hiding. I didn’t want to show myself to anyone. The shame and embarrassment were so loud that I needed to disengage from reality. Ironically, hiding from the world was not effective because I couldn’t escape who I was actually hiding from—myself. Thankfully compassion came into my life just when I needed it.
If I’d have heard about the practice any earlier, I might have disregarded it. But I was so desperate that I surrendered to the concept of being kind to myself. I am so grateful for being able to give myself the space I needed instead of feeling bad about hiding out (that’s self-compassion in action right there!)
Pro Tip no. 2: Start a self-compassion routine.
Find a mantra, an affirmation, or an act toward yourself that sends the message to your subconscious that you love yourself. Even if it’s forced or you have a hard time believing it at first, persist. No matter what. My go-to mantra is taken from Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion:
“I can be with this with kindness, gentleness, love, and compassion for myself.” ~ Kristin Neff
Whenever I start feeling bad about something, whether it’s an internal story or external circumstance, I repeat that mantra to myself in my head. I’ve been saying it now for a few months, and it brings me such peace. I believe it. I’m allowed to be kind and gentle to myself.
If you can’t find words, it can be something as simple as giving yourself a neck massage. Your intention behind the action is what matters most. You are choosing to show yourself loving kindness. That is enough. The more you do it, the more you will believe it. That, in itself, is self-compassion.
When we show ourselves compassion and generosity, we can give more meaningfully to others. Sure, there are numerous benefits to kindness and giving back. Acts of kindness can boost our happiness level because we feel good about doing something nice. It’s innate within us to be loving. Being of service is one of the most beautiful aspects of being human. When we do something and we know it helped someone else, positive endorphins are released and we feel good. It reminds us that we belong, we matter, we have a purpose.
I am a very giving person. I want to help everyone. I love showing kindness and doing “small” things for others that they might enjoy. I like being thoughtful and remembering something someone likes, and getting it for them. I enjoy volunteering to teach yoga to women who wouldn’t have access to it otherwise. I adore giving and making others happy. I love being an inspiration and seeing how something I said or did made someone feel good about themselves. I cherish seeing people’s faces light up because I heard them, I thought of them, or I reminded them that they matter. This is the way I’ve always been, yet I’ve felt terrible about myself.
My intentions in giving and being of service, as much as I loved doing it, were to try and fill the emptiness within me. I was coming from a place of not good enough. I thought I had to do something to prove to the “universe” my worthiness. Coincidentally, the only person I had to prove it to was myself.
Part of the reason I had a difficult time letting go of my distaste for myself was that I wasn’t showing that same kindness or giving to myself. A good friend of mine once told me, “Stop being mean to you.” I had no idea what that meant until I started being kind to myself. Honestly, I didn’t know I could do that. I truly believed that compassion was something others had to give me.
Pro Tip no. 3: Choose yourself first.
Just say to yourself, “I choose myself. I put myself first. I am allowed to be nice to me. I deserve it.” Any variation of that works, too.
It’s okay to go above and beyond for you. The more you show yourself compassion, the easier it is to be with yourself. Then, it’s easier to be with others as well. You spend your life with yourself more than with anyone else. It seems only logical that being kind to yourself would make the roller coaster of life a bit more pleasurable.
Now that I give myself unconditional love in the form of being kind to me, I feel amazing when I give. The spaciousness within me is so vast that I want to keep giving. I no longer need to hide after trying to show others I deserve good things. I’m not exhausted and in anguish wondering why my efforts were all in vain.
The desperation is gone. I enjoy being kind to others and I know I that it doesn’t mean I have to always give. I can say no and do what’s best for me without guilt. That was the most important result of this practice for me: I choose myself first. I put myself first. I don’t have to explain myself or prove myself.
“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” ~ Joseph Campbell