The topic of self-compassion is a bit alien. When was the last time someone said, “Be compassionate towards yourself.” Self-Compassion is needed in addition to being compassionate towards others. As Dr. Kristin Neff puts it “when you are self-compassionate, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.”
In the real world, being self-compassionate is hard. Here are 3 reasons on why it is difficult and how you can overcome them.
Results Driven – In a results driven society, there is not much space for self-compassion. When focus is on results, means take a back seat. The constant pressure of chasing results weakens you.
In my own experience, I have seen that when I have to write a blog post and have the pressure of a deadline, writing the post becomes a challenge. I take a different tact. I set my eyes on the objective of writing a post but emphasize more on formulating and executing an action plan to write the post. This approach puts me at ease. I bring the actions which get me to the result to the forefront while keeping the actual result itself in the background.
Many corporations do well when they go the private equity route for funding instead of being listed on the stock exchange. The constant pressure of being chased by Wall Street and meeting the numbers takes away the focus, unless you are persistent. Amazon is a great example. The company reported losses for years. Unfazed by criticism it focused on actions to become world class. The result it wanted to achieve was to be a world class retailer. That remained in the background. The actions to get there came into the foreground.
Being Tough – Our society rewards individuals who are tough. Have you heard of the phrases “Don’t be a boy, become a man” “The loudest in the room walks away with the goodies.” There is a benefit to portray tough in the material world. There are immediate rewards.
Self-Compassion can be perceived as being weak. Don’t be surprised if someone says “Just suck it up and get going.”
You can be tough and self-compassionate. By deciding to be self-compassionate, you are giving yourself permission to pause, think, be kind toward yourself and then act. You have the awareness of the fact that you can be good to others only if you are good towards you.
The Persian Poet Rumi said “You are the Mirror that reflects the Divine.” When you are self-compassionate, you portray compassion to others. [Tweet “You are the Mirror that reflects the Divine”]
I have a tendency to go out of my way and help, often putting my own well-being and family’s well-being at risk. Now through the practice of self-compassion, I am still kind towards others while taking care of my own well-being.
Culture – The culture you live in has a big stake in your ability to be self-compassionate. There are some cultures which promote self-compassion more than others. Our own inner image on “who we are” gets influenced by culture. I can relate to both Eastern and Western Cultures.
Having lived in India, an inter-dependent society, I was exposed to the facet of being compassionate to others. Being Self-Critical and not Self-Compassionate was the focus when it came to my own well-being.
In the United States, an independent society, I have seen the pendulum to be somewhere in the middle of self-critical to self-compassion.
We develop our inner image based on our experiences, society around us and learning. When the aspect of self-critical takes over, self-compassion takes a back seat. You end up with self directed phrases such as “don’t be stupid” instead of saying “I learnt from this incident.”
There are occasions where you have to be self-critical, but even then, you can be compassionate while being reflective. Do not be critical, be reflective.
Are you a self-compassionate person?
Picture courtesy – John Hain