To most, compassion is a commendable quality. But for some reason, this quality is limited to “others” in our culture, not often for “oneself.” Lets explore 3 possible false assumptions that may prevent us from applying compassion to oneself.
1-Self Compassion means weakness.
Susan didn’t express any painful feelings while going through her divorce. She believed she had to be “strong for the kids” and power on no matter what. This meant putting herself last and ignoring any emotional or physical needs. When Susan fell apart 3 months after the divorce was final, she wondered why she was able to be “strong” in the beginning, but then suddenly became “weak and unable to handle even the smallest tasks”. What Susan didn’t realize is that instead of being a “weakness”,
researchers are now discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful influences of coping and resilience, that we have available to us. How one relates to themselves when the going gets tough- as an enemy or ally-is often what determines ones ability to cope successfully.
2- Self compassion is narcissistic.
High self esteem requires standing out in a crowd-or being “above average” in the American culture. The problem of course is that it is impossible for us to be outstanding, all of the time. When we compare ourselves to those “better” than us, we will always feel like failures. An example of
this is teen bullying. One teen told me “picking on wimpy nerds boosts my self esteem and makes me feel cool”. After many sessions he finally discovered he needed to focus on himself, and ways to feel more secure, rather than his demeaning behavior towards others. Narcissism usually results in exercising power over others; self compassion is the opposite-empowering oneself so there is no need to compare or put others down.
3- Self compassion is selfish.
Some confuse self care with selfishness and assume caring of oneself automatically means neglecting everyone else. As a therapist, I am always amazed when I meet people who consider themselves to be good, generous, altruistic souls, who are perfectly awful to themselves. Caring for oneself is actually the opposite: it’s one of the most important things you can do to have healthier relationships, and it does not mean you neglect loved ones! In reality, beating yourself up can be a paradoxical
form of self centeredness. When we can be kind and nurturing to ourselves, however, many of our emotional needs are met, leaving us in a better position to focus on others. Therefore, having self compassion equals the ability to have more to give others, not less to give others.
These 3 myths often stand in the way of caring for ourselves. More information and even classes on ways to improve self care can be found at www.mindfulnessprograms.com or web search (name of State) i.e.. “Utah msar”.
The way you talk to yourself matters. The thoughts we indulge in dictate how we feel. When your mind is spinning in negative self-talk and pessimistic views of life events, it makes perfect sense that you would feel defeated, depressed, or anxious. Trouble is, negative or critical thinking is a powerful habit that feels to happen TO us. That is actually not true, we have power over what we think. But, the thoughts can become automatic and difficult to avoid when it’s been our way of viewing the world for a long time. It’s often been taught to us in our family of origin since we were very little, and we may not have ever known how to have a positive or optimistic thought!
But research has shown again and again that happy people have inner dialogues that are optimistic and self-compassionate, even in difficult or embarrassing circumstances. Research has also shown that we have power to improve the quality of our thoughts. I believe it is a fight worth under-taking. It is never to late to work on your thinking and improve your base level of happiness day to day.
You would have to have a description of my friend, Barbie Dahl, to understand the irrationality of her decision. Barbie Dahl is not her real name, but it is so befitting this statuesque beauty with the piercing dark eyes and the stunning features. “Red carpet beautiful” – that’s how people always described her. “She is so beautiful she could walk the red carpet with ‘The Stars’ and fit right in!”
Barbie, as beautiful as she is, however, struggles with feelings of low self worth. Somewhere in the course of her life, she has developed the erroneous belief that all she has to offer the world is her good looks. As she was nearing 50, her looks were beginning to fade and she was SCARED!!! When she confessed to me one day that she “just doesn’t feel good” about herself because of the way that she currently looks and she had scheduled some plastic surgery because she believed it was just the thing that she would need to “boost” her self esteem, everything inside of me screamed, “NOT YOU TOO!!!” She already so closely fit society’s definition of the “Perfect 10” that if she felt the need to permanently and surgically alter her appearance than virtually no one is insulated from the lie that a woman’s worth is based on “how good she looks.”