We can be our own worst critics. Not only is it true, but recent studies also show that being hyper-critical of ourselves is also detrimental to our health.
So now I’m going to let you in on a secret. My biggest spiritual insight over the last decade was realizing the value and importance of self compassion. There’s a lot of psudo spiritual talk in our culture about granting others compassion and non-judgementalness – but what about self-compassion?
We can transform our core life wounds into gold using the elements of self compassion.
When we think negative, self abusive, judgmental thoughts about ourselves, we trigger chemicals in our bodies that can create strong feelings of depression, fear, anxiety, self abuse. Current research shows however, that self-compassion can actually help keep depression and mental illness at bay.
The core idea behind self-compassion is that we accept our faults. I’ll take it a step further and say, we have to learn to accept the totality of our unique life expression. However, there exists a delicate balance between self-compassion, self expression and narcissism. There are plenty of religions, spiritual cults and systems, with practices that sound like self compassion and honest self expression, but end up being abuisive narcissism focused on the idea that we only think about ourselves – and no one else really matters (or exists even).
When we accept the reality of our inner complexity, and yet we still care for others, their well being and emotions, then we can begin mastering the true art of self-compassion without crossing into narcissism and the abusing of others.
Three main areas make up self-compassion: They are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-kindness is the main component of self-compassion. We need to learn to be kinder towards ourselves when we notice our shortcomings. When we notice other people’s shortcomings, we generally don’t constantly criticize them as we do to ourselves, instead we work towards accepting them as they are. This is the same with our own body. Judging ourselves harshly can only lead to negative outcomes. We need to be supportive of who we are authentically, and simply work towards fixing the things we want to and are able to.
Common humanity is the knowledge that everyone is struggling to make sense of life. No one is perfect. Perfection is more bullshit psudo-spiritual nonsense. In fact, the belief in perfection is incredibly destructive – it’s impossible to achieve – because it’s a completely made up Santa Claus story.
The moment when we look in the mirror and do not like what we see looking back at us, we can feel separate and lonely. With self-compassion, we remember that there are millions of people having the same kinds of feelings. Finding others that share our fears and “imperfections” is a way of realizing we are not alone.
Finally, when we acknowledge that we are suffering inside because we believe we are not “perfect”, we can begin discovering and utilizing our observing ego – mindfulness. Mindfulness is key to all human change work. If we can’t be self observing, we can’t change. Mindfulness gives us the ability to find a way to rework and rewire ourselves to make the changes we desire.
It is easy to trick ourselves into seeing the good in others (because who really knows what goes on behind closed doors) and dwell on our own “faults and imperfections.”
Learning to accept who we are is difficult, but it’s something we desperately need – especially around sex and our bodies. Once we wake up to the fact that perfection is a myth intended to control us – like the Santa Claus – then we can learn to find pleasure in who we truly are, in the unique form that we are. To quote author Robert Greene, “you are a completely unique person. Learn to take small steps towards accepting and expressing that uniqueness.” This is what self-compassion is all about.