Following last week’s introductory blog on self compassion, I thought it might be helpful to continue sharing some of my own personal and professional reflections. Particularly, regarding the difficulties we all seem to experience in recognising, and being okay with our own humanity, and inevitable imperfections. I would also like to share some exercises on self compassion, in a series of blogs over the next few weeks. I hope they go some way to helping you turn towards and care for yourself in times of need.
If you have not had the pleasure of reading last week’s blog, or loved it so much you would like to read it again (ha ha!), here is the link:
I remember when I was introduced to the concept of self compassion, it took me a wee while to comprehend what it truly meant, and how to apply it to myself and my therapeutic work with others. I knew it was different to self-esteem, and instinctively felt there was something about it that was much more powerful as well. It is a really interesting concept to properly explore. I would like to share Dr. Kristin Neff’s definition of self compassion which for me captures it beautifully:
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
What observations have you made this week regarding how you treat and talk to yourself when you are going through a difficult time? Have you been able to be compassionate towards yourself? When have you found it most difficult, and what did you hear your Inner Critic say during challenging and painful times? Did you notice yourself being able to take a step back, and think, ‘what do I need right now to take care of myself?’
Personally, self compassion has been a bit of a struggle this week. As anyone with a chronic illness will know, life’s stresses, including other illnesses, do not give us leeway. How nice would that be!
Nope, life’s ups and downs continue alongside any ongoing physical or psychological challenges. All my usual pain, fatigue, anxiety and flare ups, must have felt a little lonely, and decided to become accompanied by a virus, a curtains drawn, dark room migraine, and just for the fun of it some good old ladies problems. Oh, and of course we cannot forget the snow!
It was not long before I went from feeling sorry for myself, being frustrated and scared, to being angry and annoyed at myself. Sound familiar?
The usual sorts of thoughts started to creep in:
I should be able to handle this better
Once again, I am such a burden to others
What did I overdo this time? It is all my fault
Feeling vulnerable meant thoughts surrounding treatment choices I made recently, that aggravated my condition, were more at the forefront, leaving me feeling angry at myself for not having somehow known better at the time. I started down this familiar path of doing the opposite of what I really needed, being my own enemy instead of a friend.
After a bit of time and meditation I was able to observe my thoughts a little more mindfully, and decided it was time to practice what I preach. Sometimes having knowledge is not enough; actually most of the time it is not. Like everyone I need to put the effort into developing different ways of coping, such as actively practicing self compassion and mindfulness. I therefore decided to complete the exercise I described in my blog last week.
I wrote down all the things my Inner Critic was saying to me; and on a separate piece of paper, what my Inner Child needed to hear. This allowed my mind to slowdown and consider what I needed, during this time of feeling even more unwell and vulnerable than usual.
Once I finished the exercise, I decided to pop the sheets of paper on the fridge, to remind myself over the week to be mindful of this Inner Critic of mine. As someone who finds self compassion particularly difficult, it was really helpful to be able to have a peek at the fridge, considering how to really befriend my Inner Child, and to be able to access more easily the kindness I really needed.
I would like to share these worksheets with you, and invite you to do something similar. Once you have completed them, place them somewhere you know you will see them regularly throughout the day. That might be your kitchen like me, or perhaps your office or even your bedroom. You might even complete them on your computer or tablet, saving them so you can access them were and whenever you need them.
Just click on the link below to download the worksheets:
Please feel free to share your reflections and join in on this important topic of learning to truly befriend ourselves, accepting both our strength and weaknesses.
As usual, lots of peace and love to you all.
The Wounded Healer
(Dr. Kristine Abercrombie)