I am acutely aware of the importance of self-compassion during this time of isolation during this pandemic. Not being able to meet with family and friends is challenging for our identity and reality check. So much of our happiness is gained by our interactions with others. When those interactions are not possible, we must learn to accept that we are enough.
Kristen Neff says that having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. If you can have compassion for others you must be able to empathize with their pain. You must also be moved by their suffering so that you feel with them. This makes you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the person suffering. You must also feel the desire to offer understanding and kindness to them in some way when they fail or make mistakes rather than judging them harshly. Finally, according to Neff, …“you realize their suffering, imperfections and failures is part of the human experience.”
Self-compassion is really acting towards yourself as you would towards others. You can stop and tell yourself, “This is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”
Kristen Neff says, “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?”
Neff reminds us that we all will encounter frustrations, losses, failures which make us vulnerable. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. Neff states three elements of self-compassion:
1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
When we realize and accept our human imperfections with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
2. Common humanity vs. Isolation
The very definition of being human means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience.
3. Mindfulness vs. Over identification
Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. Mindfulness requires that we not be over-identified with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.