I came across this little video on self-compassion via the Brain Pickings newsletter.
I like the way it starts with the recognition that ‘self-compassion’ as a term arouses suspicion in a lot of people: they mistake it for self-pity or self-indulgence. But these same people may not recognise that they are constantly doing the opposite, without seeing it as anything other than normal – belittling their achievements, comparing themselves to impossible role models or buying into the pernicious ‘you are responsible for everything in your life’ lies of some quarters of the self-help movement. In other words telling yourself you’re ‘not good enough’ is seen as normal, but showing some self-acceptance is too touchy-feely for some of us.
I felt that way for a long time, when both learning compassion meditations and teaching them. Like it was somehow harder to justify than sharp, focussed, mindfulness meditation. I didn’t say it out loud but there was a bit of that feeling for a long time. It wasn’t until I recognised the extent to which I fed the ‘not good enough’ strand that it occurred to me to be more even-handed in my self-talk. Suryacitta Malcolm Smith talked about looking within when we meditate, and accepting everything that comes up with ‘grandma mind’ – the way a grandmother’s arms may be more open and her eyes less judgemental than a parent’s.
I hope you enjoy the video and it encourages you to be a little kinder to yourself. That’s a good place to start tomorrow.
To survive in this high-pressured, crazy world, most of us have to become highly adept at self-criticism. We learn how to tell ourselves off for our failures, and for not working hard or smart enough. But so good are we at this that we’re sometimes in danger of falling prey to an excessive version of self-criticism — what we might call self-flagellation: a rather dangerous state, which just ushers in depression and underperformance. We might simply lose the will to get out of bed. For those moments, we need a corrective — we need to carve out time for an emotional state of which many of us are profoundly suspicious: self-compassion. We’re suspicious because this sounds horribly close to self-pity. But because depression and self-hatred are serious enemies of a good life, we need to appreciate the role of self-care in a good, ambitious, and fruitful life.