The Importance of Self-Compassion
Updated: Aug 10, 2019
It's hard to believe we're nearly through October! I recently attended a two-day intensive workshop on Mindful Self Compassion at the University of Miami. The presenters were Dr. Kristen Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer, both pioneers in Self-Compassion. I had read and recommended Dr. Neff's work before and have worked some of her Self-Compassion programs on my own. Self-Compassion work is often recommended for people in healthcare and helping fields as a prevention or treatment for "compassion fatigue". I have known this type of "burnout" in my own career, and have long considered it part of my own Personal and Professional Growth (see Wheel of Health) to pursue various paths and practices as a means of replenishing my spirit and body. As a young nurse, I would seek a different post- move from Oncology to Nephrology for example- thinking that the reason for my distress must have been the duties of the specific job. While I experienced temporary relief of symptoms, mostly due to the novelty and challenge that comes with learning new skills, I would invariably bump against my own suffering time and time again. And my natural, but unconscious strategy was to run. To leave that job and find another expression of nursing. Mindful Self-Compassion has helped change that for me. You cannot fatigue while "on" self- compassion. Self-Compassion keeps your tank full, which allows you to expend compassion on others. And now I am learning how indispensable self-compassion is when in the midst of a health challenge.
Sure, it may seem like laziness or weakness to allow yourself the time and space you need. And yes, we like to think of compassion as something noble went spent on others, but selfish when directed at ourselves, and yet, how often do we say "You can't love others if you don't love yourself". The truth is you do not need to earn the right to self care. Another truth is that the better you are at self care, the better you are at work, at mothering, at partnering, at leading, at healing, and at life. What we know about self care is that it can be stress-saving and life-saving. We all accept that stress impacts our health. We're certain of this. Building resilience helps us manage stress and there is research showing that Self-Compassion practices help us build resilience. There are links between Self-Compassion, Wellness, and Happiness.
What I know is that without Self-Compassion any change in behavior aimed at making your life better will be near impossible to sustain. Without gentleness and support of Self any change is way too scary. Change is stepping away from what is comfortable and easy and Self-Compassion builds a safety net that helps empower us to step away. What I recommend to anyone pursuing a new path is to begin with an assessment- a mindful awareness about where you are in this moment. This survey can help you determine how Self-Compassionate you are currently. If you take the survey, make note of your score somewhere. Regardless of how you score, you could surely improve, and the benefits of doing so are endless. I invite you to choose a Self-Compassion practice. I like this Compassionate Body Scan meditation, because it helps you move out of your brain and into your body. My assistant, Kisti, who provides some of our health and nutrition coaching has had great growth in Self-Compassion in the last two years, likes Affectionate Breathing. Try one of those or find another you like, here. See if you can improve your self-compassion score with a regular practice. Mark your progress by periodically returning to the survey. In this way you can begin to be Intentionally Well.