By now, you have likely read my first two posts on the benefits of self-compassion. In this article, I will close with the last two powerful benefits that I have noticed most consistently with myself and my clients.
If you missed the first two articles, you can follow these links:
6. Self-Compassion increases mindful awareness and minimizes overidentification with emotions or situations.
Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in our emotional reactions and accompanying bodily sensations that we unconsciously overidentify with them. The emotions and sensations become patterns of relating to ourselves and the world. This tendency is amplified when we witness and experience heartwrenching violence, un-natural disasters, and social inequality. Self-compassion practices address our individual and collective suffering by honoring a caring connection with all of humanity. The mindfulness inherent in self-compassion brings us back to the present moment and provides a greater perspective.
When we have a greater perspective, we help ourselves and others minimize unnecessary suffering caused by what Buddhism calls the second arrow. The first arrow is what happens. The second arrow is our reaction to what happens. It is often the second arrow that causes the most suffering.
As someone who values social justice, I appreciate the difficulty that comes with navigating the landscape of injustice. While I agree that it is natural to feel angry, judgmental, and resentful, it comes at a high price when we are hooked into a pattern of living from this place. Self-compassion is one way to fight internalized oppression by bringing our kind heart to the suffering we inflict on ourselves as a result of systemic dominance and inequity. In a culture where some people are considered more valuable than others, it can be difficult to fully embrace ourselves in the arms of self-love, but it is from the commitment to be compassionate with ourselves that the resistance begins and extends to our work in our communities.
7. Self-Compassion can transform any moment of suffering into a moment of mindful self-love.
I remember the first time I realized the power of self-compassion. I was in an unusually intense state of panic and could not stop ruminating about irrational fears that might happen. I call this “future tripping.” It was so bad that all the things that are supposed to work didn’t. I had called a friend, taken a walk, done vigorous exercise, did breathing techniques, chanted mantras, you name it!!! Nothing was working. I was just beginning the self-compassion practices so I decided to try one called Soften, Soothe, Allow by Kristin Neff.
As I was crying my way through the compassionate gesture of holding my hand over my heart, telling myself with the kindest voice I could muster that I was experiencing a moment of suffering and that I was here for myself, I started to hear my voice say the word “sweetheart.” Before that moment I was intensely identified with fear, but as soon as I heard myself say sweetheart to myself, I began to feel spaciousness in my heart, then warmth, then a deep breath of relief. I noticed that I had naturally shifted into the mindful observer who was able to give compassion. I was also aware that it was just as important to receive as deeply as possible as it was to give the kindness being shown.
In that moment, I realized that every single moment of suffering is an opportunity to give ourselves love and compassion. Let me say that again. Every moment of suffering is an opportunity to give ourselves love and compassion.
This was a profound moment that I hope you will also experience as you move toward being kinder to yourself.
These benefits described in the 7 Powerful Benefits of Self-Compassion are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the life-enhancing transformations that can occur for you and your loved ones.
In my next blog, I will answer the question, “What is self-compassion?” so we are clear on what self-compassion is and is not. Many who hear about self-compassion fear that it is equivalent to “babying” yourself or letting yourself eat too much ice cream while dodging responsibilities. I’ll clear all that up so you can shamelessly love yourself into a spin of giggles:-)