Self-compassion is the first step towards compassion for others. For me - associated with early times in my emotional recovery - it goes with other ‘Selfs’: Self-awareness, Self-knowledge, Self-forgiveness, Self-acceptance and dare I say it....Self-love!
Before, I mostly judged the world the way I judged myself - criticising, judging, blaming and resenting others and, to a far greater extent, damning, berating, belittling and shaming myself. And walking this road of general condemnation suited me pretty well for several decades.
But when I made a decision to choose change, reintegration, growth and healing, part of that change meant becoming more positive, loving and kind - towards ME! Before that, any efforts to be loving, kind, patient and forgiving towards others seemed like 'the right thing' to do but the effort was teeth-grittingly exhausting and somehow rather false.
Two phrases helped with this process - "let it begin with me" and "keep the focus on myself".
There can be a three-step approach to self-compassion :
I needed to be honest about who I had become over the negative years - both the positives and the negatives. I had to share these findings with someone I could trust. I needed to understand and explore where some of this stuff had stemmed from.
I got angry for a while then sad for a while - talked about it, wrote about it, sat with it. I had to accept myself exactly the way I was - warts and all. Only then could I better understand myself, forgive and nurture myself - particularly my ‘Internalised Inner Child’.
One action I took to repair that disassociated relationship was to ask the Child to write a letter to me to tell me how she felt and then, as the Loving Adult, the ‘older me’ undertook to write a supportive letter back, acknowledging her feelings and promising to take care of everything from now on.
When this self-compassion was finally in place for me, I was then able to extend that understanding, acceptance and forgiveness to others and to do so genuinely - at no emotional cost to myself.
It was important for me to start with my own parents and step-parent, whom it had been so easy to blame in the past. If I could cut myself some slack now because I realised that a lot of negative stuff had come from my past parenting - then mightn't they have experienced much the same through their own experiences of being parented? After all, we can’t give away what we haven't got, can we?
Self-compassion has also helped me to believe that I am no better than anyone else and certainly no worse. Instead of standing on the rung of a ladder with others beneath me or above, I have put aside the need to compete and compare, and feel much healthier, wiser and kinder than I once was - either to others, or myself.
Life Coach and Listener
Caroline Gibbs is an NCP (National Council of Therapists) registered Life Coach holding an EDI qualification in Performance Coaching along with qualifications in Counselling Skills, Solution Focused Thinking and Psychology. She is an entertaining speaker, and engages groups through her energy, humour and insight.