fbpx The Healing Powers of Self-Compassion | CCNM-ICC

Self-compassion is a way of learning to treat oneself with warmth and understanding in difficult times, those times where our own self-criticism can dominate. We are human, we are prone to make mistakes and to have struggles; learning to accept this reality, learning how to show the same kindness to ourselves as we do to others allows the heart to begin to soften.

With self-compassion, we become mindful of our struggles, our lives in that present moment, despite the inner and outer imperfections. We learn to provide ourselves with the intrinsic strength needed to thrive, responding with compassion, kindness and support to our own body and mind. This allows us to recover from past set-backs, motivates us to improve and do better, reduces stress and overall, helps us to be happier individuals and live a life with purpose.

At this point, one might say this all sounds wonderful – but how do I get there? It all begins by opening to what is, without resistance, without judgement. Each and every one of us have experienced some form of pain in our lives, either by loss, worry, heartbreak or hardship. Pain is a part of life; it is inevitable and impossible to avoid. Avoidance is a very temporary protection from the struggle, but the emotions remain and want to be heard, they want to be felt and processed. Research has shown that in attempting to suppress unwanted thoughts and feelings, they get stronger and more intense. In addition to this, when we try to avoid or suppress these painful thoughts or emotions, we become less likely to respond with compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff is a pioneer in the field of self-compassion research and speaks to the three elements of self-compassion.

1. Self-kindness: The conscious decision to respond to yourself with love and kindness as opposed to responding with self-criticism, or ignoring internal suffering and pain. She states that when we do not meet the expectations we set for ourselves, being unable to accept that part of being human is failure and experiencing difficulties, this leads to suffering. Suffering increases in the forms of stress, frustration, and self-criticism. On the contrary, when we are able to accept the situation for what it is, to respond to ourselves with empathy and kindness, level-headedness prevails.

2. Mindfulness: The ability and mental state to pause, and bring awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the present moment without judgement.

3. Common Humanity: The understanding that unpleasant feelings and difficult situations are part of the common human experience and that suffering is universal. We are connected to others not only by the joys in life, but also by our fears, struggles, and hardships. When we become open and accepting to the reality that we may be in the same boat as others, in tune with our Common Humanity, we allow ourselves to have more compassion towards self and others.

I highly encourage you to check out her website as she offers several exercises and guided practices to develop and build self-compassion skills: https://self-compassion.org.

Learning self-compassion allows us to give ourselves the support and comfort needed to harbor the pain and difficulties of life, while creating an environment for optimal growth, transformation, and happiness.

Author: Lauryn Dingwall, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre intern

Reference: Neff, Kristin, https://self-compassion.org/the-three-elements-of-self-compassion-2/