Compassion is usually seen as how we utilize kindness and understanding with others. As with most acts of kindness, the capacity to be compassionate starts from within. When we lack self-compassion it is generally a lot harder to be kind to others. When we view this self-love as beginning internally, it can then radiate outwards and color our interactions with others in a beautiful way.
What is self-compassion?
The act of treating ourselves with compassion is not one that many people place importance on, yet we are expected to treat one another with kindness. We are taught from a young age to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, we generally engage in self-criticism and self-talk that is far more harmful and hurtful than anything we would tell someone else.
"That was so stupid!" "What were you thinking?!" "Here you go again..." are all lite versions of self-talk that I have heard people engage in and I am guilty of myself. Acting with self-compassion aims to turn that kindness and understanding inside. It is engaging in more gentle self-talk and self-criticism that allows for a level of understanding of why something is happening rather than giving yourself a mental beating.
Self-compassion allows you to transcend those core emotions that we tend to be so comfortable expressing: anger, fear, hate and variations of these. It allows us to take in more love and help ourselves move past our defenses.
How to practice self-compassion
The first step is awareness of your internal dialogue now. Is it one of anger, frustration, hate, overwhelm, sadness, or worry? If so, chances are you are not engaging in self-compassion. When that inner monologue running through our minds is largely negative, it is going to have an impact on our mood and the way we interact with others.
Once you acknowledge that kindness and understanding is in order, take the time to notice how this critical voice of non-compassion is making you feel and behave. Chances are you are struggling to see the good in yourself which will make it nearly impossible to truly see the good in others.
Use this awareness to be gentle to yourself when you notice you are being less than kind to yourself. Ask yourself, "what is really going on here?" to help you to get to a place of understanding and kindness, instead of beating yourself up and feeling angry.
How practicing self-compassion leads to compassion for others
When we practice self-compassion, we are able to utilize those principles with others. Instead of responding in anger or hostility at someone else, we can take a step back from those reactive emotions and ask "what might be going on with them?"
Can we shine a light of understanding on possible circumstances rather than responding in anger or frustration? Can we practice a moment of kindness despite the very real desire to explode? This type of response will serve to foster deeper connections between you and those around you and the byproduct will help continue self-compassion.
When we realize that we are all human, all prone to making mistakes and having bad days, we meet these struggles with compassion instead of anger. When we recognize our own limitations and imperfections, we are able to be kinder and gentler with ourselves and grow from those experiences.
Practicing compassion on all levels serves to deepen our connection with others, help others and ourselves in meaningful ways, and opens us up to the love and kindness we are all capable of.
Next time you are compelled to beat yourself up, I would love to hear how you feel when instead you respond with kindness and understanding. I am betting on a more calm, peaceful self for you and those around you. Remember, kindness does not cost a thing--for yourself and for others.