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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 :

  • Awareness

  • Acceptance

  • Action

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.

Caroline Gibbs

Life Coach and Listener

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