Self-compassion gives us the ability to treat ourselves with affection rather than constantly judging ourselves. This is the first element of self-compassion. Imagine that a very close friend is beating themselves up about a situation and blaming themselves. How would you treat them? You could probably look at the situation much more objectively, reminding your friend of their strengths and good sides. However, when it comes to ourselves, it is not that easy to switch to this attitude. Self-compassion makes these transitions easier. As we practice self-compassion, we begin to accept and understand feelings such as pain, failure and inadequacy, instead of getting angry at ourselves and ignoring them. Imagine someone you feel very safe with, such as a family member or your partner. Wouldn’t it be easier to show that person your vulnerable side and share your burden with them? Because when we feel embraced and safe expressing ourselves, we are better able to accept ourselves as we are. Every person has their curves and edges, ins and outs–like the pieces of a puzzle. When we see these as they are, we begin to feel like a part of the whole as well. Instead of feeling disappointed, we can accept and let go. We need to remind ourselves that we are experiencing normal, human feelings. Focussing too much on our individual experiences makes it hard to accept things, as we see problems that need to be “corrected”, deficiencies that are needed to be “filled”, and we see our suffering as separate from that of others. This is the second element of self-compassion: choosing to see the common ground experienced by all humans rather than isolating yourself and your emotions. When we depend on other people or situations to feel compassion and feel like we are in a safe space, a part of us remains unseen and misunderstood. You are the only person who can take care of you for the rest of your life. That’s why making space for self-compassion helps everyone.
But self-compassion does not mean simply accepting every state and situation. Self-compassion is not about turning everything negative into a positive. Of course, it is natural to see the negatives, mistakes or deficiencies in ourselves or in situations. We can always choose to change or correct them, but when our distorted judgments get mixed into the situation, we lose the power within us to transform. Self-compassion helps us to use this power and capacity, neither too much nor too little, just as much as is needed. It helps us look at ourselves in a gentler way. And this brings us to the last element of self-compassion: looking at each state with awareness and authenticity.
Try to catch yourself when you criticise yourself, even if it is for very minor things. When you notice these, can you make space for all the needs and situations you feel and experience?