The Gift of Self-Compassion
So, I consider birthdays kind of a big deal! Celebrating each passing year is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the things you are grateful for, to acknowledge personal accomplishments, and consider what you’re going to do with the life you have left to live.
With each passing year, I have found myself leaning more towards self-care over productivity, more self-kindness and self-reflection over self-deprecation and doubt. And, as I just recently celebrated turning 44, I am reflecting on how I can more consistently and intentionally practice care and kindness for myself. Because, when we listen to what our body-mind is needing from us, heed the call, and respond in kind, we can:
- Gain some peace and perspective from what burdens us
- Fulfill our life’s mission/purpose
- And more readily present to others the best of ourselves
Further, when we foster respect and consideration for ourselves in this way, we can give to others from a place of genuineness and love without depleting our own energies.
With this in mind, I have decided to gift myself a more regular and deliberate self-compassion practice. Self-compassion, not just when I am having a bad day. Or when the mood seems to strike or the timing is right. But self-compassion every damn day. Because I am deserving of that. And so are you.
The Practice of Self-Compassion
Therefore, I have challenged myself to come up with at least 44 ways that I can regularly (i.e.: daily) practice self-compassion. And I’m sure there are plenty more possibilities. But I wanted to start somewhere. So, this is my riff on ideas for self-compassion….
Self-Compassion 101 ?
1. To begin, develop a deeper understanding of what self-compassion is. Kristen Neff’s work is a great resource. It includes the following 3 basic tenets…
2. Do mindfulness. This involves being a witness to your thoughts without judging or trying to change them
3. Speak and act kindly to yourself, as you would with someone/thing you care deeply for
4. Also, remember your commonality with all humans. Everyone is imperfect. And everyone struggles in life
Building the practice
5. Discuss with your therapist the desire for more self-compassion.
6. And ask your therapist for resources and homework to further hone the practice outside of therapy sessions
7. Pick a time of day that works best for you to practice self-compassion. Morning is ideal for me when the house is quiet and I have nowhere to be just yet
8. With self-compassion scheduled in, commit to daily meditation that has a self-compassionate theme to it
9. But if you need help, following a guided self-compassion practice, such as this workbook by Tim Desmond, might steer you in the right direction
Getting to know your baseline
10. Regularly check-in with where you are at in body-mind-spirit. Ask – what am I feeling? How can I respond compassionately?
11. Journal what comes up for you in your self-compassion practice
12. Use your self-compassion practice to better know thyself – your character, strengths, values
13. However, make sure your assessment also includes identifying your biases, shortcomings, mistakes
14. Plus, acknowledging any suffering you are experiencing or past suffering that you are holding on to
15. But do not berate yourself for those seemingly negative aspects. Remember the key tenet of self-compassion – common humanity (see point 4 above)
16. Yet, even though flaws and suffering are part of the human condition, do not absolve yourself from doing the work of resolving beliefs and patterns that harm others
17. Review your journal entries as time goes on. What has changed? What has stayed the same? How can you invoke more self-kindness?
18. Utilize joyful movement to embody a self-compassionate stance
19. Activate the release of oxytocin, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter
20. Note that you can facilitate the release of oxytocin through self-touch. You could try the following…
21. Place your hand to your heart
22. Give yourself a hug and gentle squeeze
23. And/or, you could swaddle yourself, just as one would with a newborn baby. See this video demo for how-to
24. Close your eyes and breathe softly and deeply; sense the rhythm of your breath as it moves through you
25. Practice restorative yoga
26. Provide yourself with gentle self-massage (the Roll Model Method® therapy balls are my go-to supplies for this)
27. Lie down with a Yoga Nidra session
Self-compassion with community
28. Find opportunities for real, face-to-face social connection with like-minded folk
29. But refrain from social comparison. While self-compassion involves recognizing our shared humanity, comparing ourselves to others robs us of our contentment and peace
30. Curate your social media feed to uplift rather than demote you
31. However, even with a well-curated feed, take regular social media breaks
32. Take up causes that are important to you and where you feel you can make a difference (no matter how seemingly small)
33. But also give yourself some personal space and set boundaries
34. Replicate kindness that you witness out in the world and figure out ways you can turn it inward
When in doubt… self-care
35. Consider that practicing self-care is inherently practicing self-compassion. You are being compassionate towards yourself when you take care of your needs
36. But remove the shoulds, coulds, and body-hatred of diet culture. Restriction and denial is the anti-thesis to self-compassion
37. Instead, choose foods that marry enjoyment, nourishment, and honouring your needs and wants. For me, sometimes that might be a bacon sandwich and chips; other times a hearty cobb salad
38. Take rest days from exercise, to-do lists, and routine
39. Get enough sleep that you feel rested upon waking. Sometimes (if possible) wake without an alarm clock. Instead, let your body rise when it naturally feels ready to do so
40. And regularly immerse yourself in things that bring you joy. To me, this is swinging at the park, letting the sun beam down on my face, having a good laugh
Self-compassion in action
41. Implement self-compassion throughout your day. In other words, not just during your scheduled self-compassion practice time
42. Develop a heartfelt intention that is rooted in self-compassion. And repeat it to yourself multiple times daily and as needed
43. Also, if you notice an unkind thought about yourself creep in, try to reframe it, in-the-moment, to be more considerate
44. And if you’re working at a goal and it is proving too difficult, give yourself permission to give up on it. Acknowledge the effort but know when enough is enough
So there you have it, 44 ways to practice self-compassion! It’s the gift I am giving myself this year and beyond. And I hope you will consider gifting it to yourself too.
I’d love to hear your ideas. What are some other ways to practice self-compassion?