I grew up in a Quaker family where I was taught to serve others and consequently became a therapist which has brought great meaning into my life. However, until recently, I was never as good to myself as I was to others.
As a result, I often felt depleted and even “burned out.” Fortunately, I listened to the wisdom of my teenage son and began to treat myself with the same compassion I had for others. I was gratified to discover that my efforts filled me with an abundance of happiness and inner peace I could pass onto others.
I have been on a mission ever since to spread the wonders of self-compassion far and wide though the use of the following portals. I have witnessed and experienced the healing and transformative power of these portals in my work with clients and my own quest to be more self-compassionate.
Be Your Own Best Friend
If you “beat up” on yourself in a harsh, judgmental manner, begin talking to yourself inside your head or out loud in a caring and helpful manner, just like you are your own best friend. For instance, when you are going through a hard time, you could say to yourself, “Hang in there, I am behind you all the way!”
Develop Beliefs that Work for You
You may hold onto beliefs that cause you unhappiness, stress, etc. One of the keys to self-compassion is to identify your beliefs that are not working and replace them with ones that are more functional, like you are shedding an old skin. In fact, one of the key components of my work with clients is to encourage them to “try on” new beliefs to see how well they work.
Know that You Are Inherently Worthwhile
You may mistakenly believe that you are not worthy because you fail to live up to your own expectations, the bad treatment you have received from others or the mistakes you have made. However, worth is not something we need to earn. We are all inherently worthy and knowing this fills us with a lightness of spirit that spreads through our entire being.
Do Not Project Your Needs onto Others
We often make the mistake of projecting our needs onto others and feel hurt or even angry when these people do not provide us what we are looking for. However, it is impossible for anyone to know us well enough to consistently meet our needs. We alone know best what we need and are generally much better able to give it to ourselves than anyone else.
Give Yourself the Gifts of Happiness and Peace of Mind
People often believe that they need their unhappiness and stress to motivate them to make changes in themselves and their lives. However, this is not the case. These negative emotional states deplete our energy and diminish our quality of life.
We can strive to choose happiness and peace of mind, regardless of the challenges we face. Doing so will fill us with the positive energy we need to overcome these challenges and achieve our goals.
Take Great Care of Yourself
One of the most self-compassionate things we can do is to take great care of our physical, emotional and social needs. In fact, each day presents us with countless choices about how to spend our time and focus our energies. When we respond to these opportunities in ways that bring us meaning, pleasure, comfort and good health, we feel satisfied with our lives. When we ignore our needs, we feel frustrated and even depressed.
Tune into Your “Authentic Self”
We all have an inner realm we can access by transcending our thoughts and feelings that enables us to experience greater peace and hear our inner voice amidst the noise in our heads and the world around us. This is a permanent part of us that does not change as we experience life’s challenges or develop different outward identities. In a nutshell, it is who we are at our most basic level.
Eliminate Negative Reactions
It is very freeing to train ourselves to respond to difficult situations in a calm and balanced manner rather than with frustration, anger, etc. The key to this challenge is to recognize the visceral, physiological sensations we experience just before we have a negative emotional response and to tell ourselves in no uncertain terms that we have the choice not to act on these sensations.
Appreciate What Your Already Have
A major key to happiness is to appreciate all the good things in our lives. Whether we are marveling at the unconditional love our dogs give us or enjoying a beautiful sunset, our ability to bask in life’s pleasures significantly improves the quality of our precious time on this earth. In fact, one of the most important decisions I have ever made is to totally appreciate every positive aspect of my life.
Enjoy the Present Moment
There are a variety of portals into the moment that are always accessible. One is to switch our focus from our thoughts to what we are experiencing through our senses which opens us up to an entirely different world. We can also “lose ourselves” in activities that fully capture our attention. Finally, we can view the moments of our lives as opportunities to be savored rather than stepping stones to getting to some other place.
Pass Your Compassion onto Others
One of the best things about achieving self-compassion it that it fills us with care and goodwill that we can pass onto others. We are also compelled to do our part to eliminate suffering and help build a better world!
Many people believe it is selfish to be self-compassionate. However, there is nothing selfish about treating yourself with kindness and taking great care of yourself. In fact, your spirit and serenity will attract others to you and inspire them to let their own light shine.
I invite you to “try out” these portals into self-compassion to discover which ones work best for you — it will be your gift to yourself. I hope they change your life as they have mine!