This is by far the most life changing insight I’ve heard all year. Earlier on in the year while talking to my therapist around the season my life is in she mentioned how we are so quick to talk about self-care, what about self-compassion?
I was very quick to tell her that many of us are familiar with the idea and concept and practice of self-care. In recent years it has been preached and lambasted on us to take better care of ourselves, to be selfish with our time, to take some time out to love on ourselves and refill our tanks, which ever way you choose to look at it, in one form or other this is a term you have come across. So this was going to be my patch or bandaid to whatever pain, stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression I anticipated or even ended up facing this year as I grieved my first year without my mother. It was the only weapon and strategy I had to continue breathing. Until she brought up self-compassion.
Looking it up online for fear of misrepresenting the concept all together I came across a number of definitions saying just about the same thing. One read: “Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.” Dr Kristin Neff is well versed in the practice and concept of self compassion.
The way it was explained to me was to think of a friend I truly loved who was going through the most difficult period in their life yet. What would I say to them? Probably terms like, “take it easy”, “it’s understandable given your current situation”, “let’s talk it through”, “I’m here for you”, “we can cry together if you want”, the list is endless as to how deep the compassion would go. Yet when we go through tough times we do not extend the same sensitivity to ourselves. We are most hardest on ourselves, urging our spirits to get over huge painful life-changing events in our lives.
Before self-care comes self-compassion. First we must be fully aware and in tune with what one is going through and practice, as sited by Dr Neff, self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness regarding our season.
I have tried, dismally failing a trillion times this year already, to be kinder to myself. It has not been easy, I somehow feel like ‘life waits for no man, no matter what you are going through’. I’ve always had a chin up, chest out attitude to life, an ‘I’m not the first and definitely not the last to go through this’, a ‘there’s someone out there going through worse’, and yet still an ‘everyone is going through something’ attitude. Never did it occur to me just how unkind I was being to myself. To take lightly the events, especially the devastatingly painful ones, that have changed me has (when I’m being honest) had the most detrimental effect on my world view and perspective. I have always denied myself the chance to fall apart. Even with the knowledge of self-compassion. I mean, who am I in light of all the injustices in the world, to think the ‘thinnest’ slice of pain that I have endured warrants for a complete breakdown?
Flawed thinking I know, but I also know that I am not the only one. And since hearing what my therapist said I am more aware of times when I need to be just that much kinder, mindful and humane towards my being. I am far from perfecting this in terms of understanding and practice, but I am further than I was at the start of the year.
We often destroy ourselves trying to be strong, depriving ourselves of the things that truly make us human. We are fickle and are meant to fall apart in the midst of devastating grief where we lose certain parts of ourselves or when those parts seem recklessly stripped away from us. When we encounter a pain in whose face we cannot remain the same people we were before it occurred, it’s okay to be undone. It is in the unraveling that we can become again… this is what I know.