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Self Compassion is a Mindset

Hello there, my friend, welcome to the Mindset for Life Podcast. I’m glad you’re here. And if you’re here, that means you want to know something about mindset and what we’re going to talk about today, the topic is self-compassion.

Now normally, my podcast focuses on mindset, and typically we’re talking about positive mindset. Like how to wake up happy, how to get out of bed excited in the morning, something like that. But today, we’re going to talk about self-compassion. This is an interesting new concept for some people, so I hope you’ll stay with me.

Achievement, habits, routines, strategies, attitudes; these are all tools to be our best. To move forward, to achieve our goals, to do things that we never thought we could do. And they serve us well most of the time. But as you know, life is like the waves on a sandy beach; it actually ebbs and flows. The tide of our lives rolls in and out. Sometimes things are going very well. Sometimes we’re succeeding. Our efforts will lead to those achievements and the changes that we want to have.

And sometimes we experience the totally unexpected. Perhaps it is that something just didn’t turn out the way we planned. Or there’s an unexpected stall or interruption in our progress or our plans. And sometimes it’s much more. Perhaps it’s a permanent change, loss. There’s grief and pain. We’re not really sure what to do. How do we talk to ourselves in times like these?

Over the past six months, I’ve had a lot of family things happening. About six months ago, my mother had a health change. And now she’s at home in hospice care and everything is different. It’s been a truly emotional time and not one that we anticipated or really wanted to welcome into our lives. I stayed overnight because mom’s health was not good. Things were not looking great. And we just wanted to both be with her, so my sister and I were there. And I probably got about four hours asleep. I finally realized it was time to go home and to meet my husband, who was coming home from a motorcycling trip with some friends.

He had a major motorcycle accident. The long story short is that we ended up going to the emergency room and found that he had broken eight ribs on the left side and bruised a lung. He’ll have many more weeks of recovery right now.

I put these two events together because one was unfolding over a long time and I was engaged in that. The other one came suddenly.

And both events with my mother and my husband were things that none of us would have wanted in our lives. We wouldn’t have invited the health challenge with our mother. And we would never have invited my husband to have a motorcycle accident. Both of these things present a lot of challenges,  ongoing, and it would be easy to be self-critical of a lot of things. It would be easy to be self critical of like not measuring up to helping people, or I need to work harder. Why am I not getting enough done? Or something like that. There are a lot of thoughts that any of us in these situations could be having.

And some of us have inner thoughts that are super unkind, like a mean, inner critical thought. We might give grace to everyone else if they were in a similar situation, but not to ourselves.

We’re not sure how to move through that experience.

And we might forget things. We might struggle to achieve at the rate we used to, we have to keep going to work. We might take a few days off, and then we have to get back into the flow and go back to work. There’s a lot going on with all of this.

This idea of self-compassion is a really helpful antidote to all of the angsty feelings and the negative inner critic that might be coming in during situations like this, or even those feelings of deep despair that we’re having. I’d like to give you a few tips. And then I’m going to talk a little bit more about self-compassion. So  If you’re going through it right now, through something hard, something really challenging or unexpected, and you’re struggling to move ahead, this episode is for you.

To have self-compassion, slow down.

The first tip is to take it slow. We can’t respond with the same speed and the same precision, or accuracy in most areas of work and life, when we’re going through something really tough. And because it is unusual, we need to recognize that we have to slow down. We might have to limit our commitments or reduce some of the things that we take on, see what we can delegate or just let go.

Notice what’s real, right now.

Second, notice what’s real right now. It’s tempting to project into the future and look at more potential loss and more devastation that these events could lead to. But right now, that isn’t the case.

What’s true right now?

Look at the present, and acknowledge what’s real right now. Not what worries could come in the future. Do prepare for the future, but be realistic about it, not anxious and worried. So notice what’s real, and acknowledge how it feels.

Self-compassion includes acknowledging your feelings.

So third one is notice your feelings, and accept them just as they are. Whatever you’re feeling, you’re feeling it. Experience the feeling, and then decide, after you’ve acknowledged what you’re feeling what you’d like to do with that.

Do you need to sit in it a while? Is it grief you’re feeling? Is it anger? Do you need to question that a little bit and decide what you can control, what you cannot control, and what you might be able to influence?

What kinds of things are part of this picture for you that are contributing to those feelings? And when they’re legitimately painful, grieving feelings for a difficult situation, accept them. Experience them, and try to just welcome them in.

To have self-compassion, talk to yourself kindly.

The fourth step is to bring in self-compassion. And self-compassion is really no different than having compassion for somebody else. Think about it. If you were talking to me right now, and I told you about what’s going on with my mother and my husband’s motorcycle accident, you probably would notice that I’m suffering a little bit in the grief of the moment, and that I’m sad about my hurting family members and how hard it is for them.

And you might say something really nice to me, like, “Hang in there, Bethanie. You’re going to get through it. You can do this.”

What will you say to yourself in a similar situation? That is self-compassion.

Think about how you can talk to yourself in the same exact way. So acknowledge how difficult your experience is when you’re struggling and when you’re suffering.

And next, think about opening your heart to respond to yourself when you’re in pain and understand your own pain. And have that compassion and empathy for yourself as a distinct person almost as if you yourself are a good friend to you. Now, when you feel this warmth and caring and a desire to help yourself and take care of yourself, that is self-compassion.

You can offer yourself some understanding and kindness. You can let go of judgment, and really take care of you. A lot of times people think about self-compassion, being a close partner to self-care.

Self-Compassion means practicing self-care.

When you’re exerting self-compassion because you’re having a tough time, or really struggling or dealing with loss, it can be very helpful to get a little bit more sleep. To give yourself time to relax and to rest. To do those things that would be really warm, and kind, and merciful.

Do those things that offer understanding and kindness to yourself. When you feel compassion for somebody else, generally, you’re noticing that they’re suffering or their failure is normal. That it is part of the human experience. For yourself, you can reframe and realize the same things.

Nobody can be perfect. No one can handle everything. No one can go 100 miles an hour all the time. We can’t succeed at everything and just have all kinds of grief and loss just come in and out of life without anything slowing us down. Maybe we have to take a break from work and take a leave of absence for example. Whatever it is, this is a difficult time right now. How can you comfort and care for yourself right now? All these concepts come from the definition of self-compassion on the website by Dr. Kristin Neff. She is an expert on self-compassion. And she’s known for sharing what self-compassion is, how you can practice it, and what it isn’t.

Here’s a quote from Kristin Neff:

“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you’re kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings. After all, who said you were supposed to be perfect?”

Self-compassion comes into play when you start to beat yourself up because you’re not doing better. Or when you don’t give yourself time to grieve, time to acknowledge what you’re experiencing.

She offers us three elements of self-compassion.

  1. One is the difference between self-kindness and self-judgment. Self-compassion means you’re going to be warm and understanding towards yourself. When you’re feeling pain, when you’re suffering, when you feel inadequate, when you failed in some way, when you’re grieving, whatever it is, you don’t just ignore your pain and criticize yourself. Self-compassion means you keep it in perspective, you’re kind to yourself, and you go through the difficulty with some understanding and patience for yourself. And, frankly, some self-love too. The reality is when you’re kind to yourself, and when you’re more understanding with yourself, you feel better. You just do.
  2. The second thing is to look at it as part of being human versus isolating yourself. So when something goes dreadfully wrong, if you isolate yourself, your pain is going to grow, and your grief is going to grow. As they say, silence creates a thriving negative emotional space. So the more you isolate, or become alone, or don’t share what you’re going through, the more you’re going to struggle with that. Because all of us struggle. And when we share what we’re going through with other people, then we don’t feel so alone, and we can connect with them. Of course, you get to decide how much to share, and you don’t have to share much at all. But being with other people, that alone can be helpful.
  3. And the third thing that Dr. Neff offers us is the difference between mindfulness and over-identification. Over-identification means we’re very judgmental of ourselves. We see it as all about ourselves, doesn’t happen to other people, it’s all about me. It’s my problem. But we put it into a larger perspective. Using mindfulness, that’s this idea of being present right now.

What is true right now, and what is true about the past? But let’s not project to the future and assume that this is total failure for everything, all the time. It’s not.

And yeah, it is painful, and we’re going to have a hard time. But we can keep going. We don’t have to be caught up and swept away. We can experience it, and we can also get through it.

So I want you to leave today, thinking about that hard experience you’re going through, or maybe you recently went through. And consider how you might exercise self-compassion in your thoughts towards yourself and in the way you treat yourself, especially around that issue that that is hard for you or that has been a challenge for you. Give yourself time to recover to get through it.

Consider making lists. Write things down, because a grieving mind tends to forget small details and it can be easy to lose track of things. With some self-compassion, a few lists, and other people around you, you can keep track of the daily things and be able to still function at a basic level as you need to hang in there.

We’re with you. And I hope that you’ll exercise a little more self-compassion to get through it and feel strengthened by giving yourself grace.

This episode’s theme song is “Sunshine Club,” by Ishan Dincer. Used with Permission.

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