Self-Compassion in a Season of Low Compassion
Do you know the concept that has brought tears to the eyes of more of my friends, clients, and family members in the past few weeks when I’ve broached it? You got it! Self-compassion! You’re probably like, I can figure out what that is, but let’s dive into a little lesson about it. I was, after all, a teacher for quite a while, so this is fun for me. Please indulge me a bit.
Self-compassion is a term coined by Dr. Kristin Neff, currently a professor of Educational Psychology at UT, Austin, who has extensively studied moral and self-concept development. You can read all about her here. The concept of self-compassion is often coupled with mindfulness and mindfulness practices, but for the purpose of this blog, I’m not getting into that because I know you, many of you, will tune out if I get into mindfulness. Quiet my mind, quiet my thoughts? What?! It’s ok, I hear you. Maybe you’ll get into it, maybe you won’t, but you can develop self-compassion either way AND maybe even find self-compassion that you’re not into mindfulness! Ha!
So what is it? In grossly broken down terms, self-compassion is an umbrella with three major areas underneath it – self-kindness versus self-judgment (warmth toward self through a “failure,” just as we would hold for a close friend), common humanity versus isolation (we’re all human, therefore we ALL f* up, there’s a sisterhood in our collective failing), and mindfulness versus over-identification (we can be aware of our pain/suffering without DROWNING in it.) I do invite you to read more about it, as well as what it is NOT (ie, self-indulgence, but that will not stop me from eating my kids’ Halloween candy this weekend) by visiting https://self-compassion.org for a full run-down.
Why do I think this is important now and why does it make people cry when I bring it up? Now we’ve arrived at the actual point of this blog in which I tell you that, in my experience, we working moms/new moms/caregivers/badass STRONG WOMEN ARE THE ABSOLUTE WORST AT SELF-COMPASSION. It’s like we somehow believe that if we allow any room for ourselves not to be perfect, to fail, to overreact, to underreact, to confront, to avoid, and the list of binary options goes on, then we are NOT “doing it right” and therefore we do not deserve our own love and warmth. See that losing battle? OR, that if we offer that same love warmth to ourselves, then we are somehow withholding it from others. I am here, friends, to tell you that the secret is this: we can do both. We can offer the same “name that good thing” to ourselves as we offer to our children, friends, colleagues, students, patients, etc., and it will be ok. There is no deficit model here – the more that we offer it to ourselves, the more that we can, in turn, offer it to others. A pretty powerful gift, I would say. But women, and I say this with so much love, we’ve got to stop sucking at this. Our daughters, nieces, sisters are depending on us to show them how it’s done.
So why now? I bring this to your attention, this week, in anticipation of next week – election week. If you’re a sensing person, or if you have any feelings at all right now, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that the collective tension in our nation, and in the world as COVID cases climb, is INTENSE. The coming week is likely another wave of upheaval in a year in which Atlas indeed shrugged, rattling and destabilizing all of us. I’m not going to tell you that it’s all going to be ok because that’s not fair or honest, and sadly, my crystal ball is on the fritz. But I AM here to tell you that I am going to be ok, and that you are going to be ok, too, especially if you can lean into some self-compassion over the coming weeks. The more that we show this to ourselves, the more we can show it to others, and goodness, isn’t that what we need right now?
For the coming weeks, I will do my best to document and share the times in which I am showing myself compassion, as well as moments in which I show it to others. If you want to join me in this, share this blog with someone who might need it, follow @rockwellnesscounseling on Instagram to see how we’re going to self-compassion the hell out of November, 2020. Because, in the words of rabbinic sage Hillel the Elder, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
Let’s start now.