On how to cultivate the compassion that matters most.
Call to mind the person very close to you that needs your compassion the most. Was it yourself that you saw? When thinking of offering compassion, it’s not usually ourselves that come to mind and yet it is ourselves that need our compassion the most.
What does it mean to show compassion?
It begins with noticing that another person is suffering, noticing that they’re going through some pain.
Then, you move that noticing into your heart to understand what they might be feeling in the moment; you offer kindness, rather than judgment and criticism.
Finally, you get the desire to help the person, either by removing what’s hurting them or by offering comfort and support.
Self-compassion is no different, except that we turn that noticing and caring inwards. Self-compassion is the act of goodwill towards oneself, not good feelings. So even though self- compassion is moving towards feeling better, it does not push negative or challenging feelings or experiences away. Instead, it provides acknowledgment and support through our tough experiences. If we try to use self-compassion to push our feelings away, we will notice that things often get worse. Painful emotions cannot be pushed away; they will merely live under the surface ready to lash out when they get triggered.
In Western culture, we tend to be incredibly harsh on ourselves. We push ourselves to achieve and perform, and when we miss the mark, the self-criticism can be relentless. Imagine a young child learning to swim. You would never stand at the edge of the pool yelling at the child to get over their fears and just swim across already. Instead, you would pull the child aside, let them know that it’s ok to take a little while to learn something new, and suggest that they stay in the shallow end while they get comfortable in the water. We can and ought to show this same level of care to ourselves.
Like any skill, this is something we can learn to offer to ourselves.
Self-compassion is not self-indulgent. In a culture that undervalues self-care, it can be challenging to shift our mental models around how we care for ourselves. What we often hear from others is guilt around taking time off, watching a favorite show, or treating themselves to something. We can help shift that mental model by allowing ourselves to cultivate and honor our own self- care practice, and encouraging the same in those we love.
Steps for practicing self-compassion
1. Mindfulness: cultivate a practice of mindfulness that will allow you to notice more quickly when you are experienced a tough time.
2. Understanding: once you’ve noticed that you’re going through something, treat yourself as would a small child. Compassionately accept that the moment you’re going through is painful. 3. Offer support: ask yourself what you can give yourself in that moment to feel less alone, more resourced, and more supported. What can you do for yourself that will lead to a sense of comfort and care?
Following these steps will provide you with the love and connection you need to get through the tough times, while also creating the most optimal conditions for growth and transformation.
Offering yourself support
Supporting ourselves in a loving and compassionate way may not come naturally to people, but it is a skill that we can develop. Get to know that self-care practices that provide the most benefit for you:
Taking a nap
Reading a book
Clearing your calendar
Eating nourishing, clean foods and drinking plenty of water
Talking to a friend or getting the support of a professional
Getting out of the house and socialize
Exercising, breathing fresh air
How can you take a little more off your plate so that you’re empowered to carve out that vital self-care time? Your team at Pursuit is ready to take on the things you have to do so that you have more time to the things you want to do. We’re just a phone call/text/email away!
Liz is New England native now living in Seattle. She is a unique mix of MBA, folk herbalist, and self-care advocate. As concierge and Master of Celebrations at Pursuit, she is able to combine her business know-how with one of her greatest joys in life – helping others.