A colleague recently called me the ‘guru of joy.’ I was a little taken aback by that because for nearly ALL my life, joyful would have been the last word I’d use to describe myself.
It Ain’t Always Easy To Be Kind To Yourself
Despite our best efforts, taking solid care of our emotional, spiritual, and psychological selves can be damn hard sometimes. In life, some of the only things I can guarantee you (besides an end to it all) is that there will occasionally be curveballs, too-tall speed bumps, and lotsa opportunities to revert to living in survival mode.
I don’t know how it shows up for you, but these are the dark and muddy places where stress eating, acting out, saying things we don’t mean, feeling resentful, and wanting to run and hide take over. (And that’s all in just the first few hours of my day!)
These are also our growth edges. This is where if we lean in to the discomfort, emotional pain or anxiety, we might actually learn something about ourselves and what we can do better to meet our interior needs and experience a little grace in our lives.
What happens when we don’t practice self-compassion?
I dunno about you, but I tend to hang with a pretty awesome crew of self-aware people who are actively seeking to improve themselves and their lives. They hold down jobs to meet their physical needs, they have big ol’ hearts and tend to care a lot for others, and they often know what they need to keep their inner game strong, too. Stuff like time off of work, dinner with friends, and hiking in the woods.
But for all of us, life can get very stressful at times. Things beyond our control can cause a careful energy balance to tip into the red. Go too long with an energy deficit and even the smallest issues can seem impossible to surmount.
When my self-compassion game slips into the red, I feel:
• Resentful (at what, I’m not always sure!)
• Emotionally and physically exhausted
• An emptiness inside
• Like the biggest imposter ever (‘cuz I teach this stuff to others for a living)
To be sure, failing to care for our emotional and spiritual needs creates the perfect storm of suckiness. It makes it harder to feel connected to the people we care most about. And when we feel uninspired, overwhelmed, or tapped out, life is just harder all around because we’ve lost our oommff!
What happens when we DO practice self-compassion?
I have talked on and on about the health benefits of getting out of survival mode and into a loving place of self-compassion. You can read more about how a self-compassion practice leads to improved health and well-being outcomes here.
A lot of other groovy things happen when we practice self-compassion and radical self-acceptance. You may not have realized this, but when we start to treat ourselves with kindness (and I’m not talking mani-pedis, friends, it’s the internal stuff that matters most) we create a shift in our perspective.
A shift in perspective from “I am not worthy of self-compassion or self-directed kindness” to “Hey, maybe if everyone else is, then I am too!” will cause a radical shift in your external experience.
Yes! Change how you feel about yourself on the inside and what you see, feel, and experience in your outer world will change too.
When you treat yourself with the same kindness that you would offer to your best bud, you will open your eyes to new opportunities that you couldn’t see before.
Things like applying for that promotion at work because now you think you can actually pull it off! Or working up the nerve to ask that cute barista out who makes your daily full-fat, half-caf, coconut latte. Or maybe you’ll muster up the courage to finally start writing the next great American novel.
Self-compassion changes the way we think about ourselves. In addition, it changes the way we look at the world, and importantly, our place in the world.
A self-compassion practice creates:
• A sense of belonging
• An ability to maintain healthy personal boundaries
• A wider perspective on what you are able to be, have, do, and achieve
• Compassion for others, for animals, and for our planet
• Increased connection with others
• Greater willingness and desire to stretch, grow, and become your best self
• An incredible ability to create the life you really want
You got that? Practicing radical self-acceptance and self-compassion will allow you to create the life you want for yourself. I ain’t kidding around on this one.
How do I get my self-compassion practice back on track (or start a new practice)?
I’ve got so many tips and tricks up my sleeves for you, my dears! It’s helpful to remember that we are all individuals with different needs, schedules, abilities, and natural inclinations. Therefore, it’s best to find a few tools that work best for you and stay open to the possibility that you will need different tools in different situations.
What follows are just a few of my tried and true methods that I teach my clients to practice. Test them out and see what jives with you.
A gratitude practice is essential when you are down in the dumps for any reason, and especially when you’ve fallen off the self-compassion wagon. If you really struggle with accepting your body (health, appearance, or weight), try a gratitude practice where you list three things each morning about your body that you are grateful for. Examples: Smiling eyes, bodacious booty, strong legs to carry you.
A meditation or mindfulness practice will help you to see your thoughts more clearly. When we become more aware of the internal monologue between our ears, we become able to course correct and can then choose to focus on more loving thoughts. Meditation is all about getting to know ourselves better and being more awake when we are “off the cushion”.
Lovingkindness (Metta Meditation)
Practicing lovingkindness towards others first, and then to ourselves can create a bridge to focusing loving thoughts towards ourselves. Finding a simple Metta meditation can be very calming and centering, and easily practiced throughout your day. I love Insight Timer, a free meditation app with more than 15,000 meditations available in multiple languages. Get it and use it!
Your breath is your greatest ally of all. Most of us are never fully breathing into our lower lungs like we did when we were babies. Taking a moment to find and focus on our breath can remind us to re-center, put the jar of peanut better down, and then decide if we are really hungry or just freaked out and wanting to numb and soothe ourselves.
Tools To Thrive By
If you’re serious about showing up for yourself and creating big change in your life, please consider enrolling in my four-month program, Tools To Thrive By. It’s open for beta testing at a reduced price. This program teaches you all the tools you need to find your center, come home to yourself, and create the life you really want. And of course, none of this can be done without practicing self-compassion!
Hire a Coach or Healer
Seriously, sometimes our numbing or limiting patterns are so hardwired we can’t even see them fully, which really gets in the way of self-compassion. This is when it’s time to call in reinforcements in your self-compassion crusade.
I had to do this because my self-loathing and self-destructive patterns were so pervasive that I couldn’t escape the quagmire. Decades of quietly hating myself had taken a serious toll on my health, my relationships, my outlook on life and what I thought possible for myself; namely a state of peace, openness, and living my purpose.
It is honestly the best money I have ever spent. Reach out if you want to have a quick convo with me to see if your self-compassion game needs a little boosting and what will work best for you in your life.