It doesn’t feel right this week to write without acknowledging the news in the Middle East, but I am also aware of my desire to not cause any unintentional upset so I won’t be talking about the specifics we already know.
I wanted to share why self compassion is exactly what we can use to best support not only ourselves but others who also need love, support and empathy during any time of emotional turbulence, both at home and at work. Self compassion is also something that can be immensely powerful and impactful when making transformation in your perceptions of yourself.
The idea of self compassion can feel selfish and awkward, especially if you are not used to practising it. The idea of bringing your focus inwards or lighting a spotlight on yourself can also feel intimidating and might open up feelings of vulnerability - that sense of really being seen, because it does require you to engage in a dialogue in many ways with yourself. To ask yourself the question,
"How am I?"
With the space to answer it truthfully and honestly, without any judgement on yourself for the answer that comes
From having felt these things myself I recognise and understand the discomfort you might experience, however embracing self compassion is exactly what has helped not only me but the hundreds of others I have coached over the years to realise their true potential. Self compassion is a way of holding yourself accountable without judgment or the inner critic taking over. It helps you to pick yourself up quicker and to out yourself out into the world in a way you never thought was possible.
If you are someone who puts others first it might be you’ve never even considered spending time on acknowledging kindness for your own self, and during times when either the wider or your own personal world can feel unsteady, putting ourselves at the forefront when so many others are in distress can feel selfish and a contradiction of values.
What is Self Compassion?
Self compassion is the same as being compassionate to others, but the focus is on you and the relationship you have with yourself. Essentially it means to be kind to yourself when you struggle, to talk to yourself only as you would do someone you love, to find those decent, wonderful qualities about yourself, to show yourself kindness in the internal struggles you experience, in the conflict of choosing to do things for yourself to help you feel good instead of constantly berating, shaming and putting yourself down when things go awry.
“Research indicates that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience we have available to us, radically improving our mental and physical wellbeing. It motivates us to make changes and reach our goals not because we’re inadequate, but because we care and want to be happy”
Dr. Kristen Neff, from https://self-compassion.org
With self compassion we are able to acknowledge our emotions without judgment. You will then carry this mindset, energy and approach into the challenging moments you face personally and professionally, which helps not only you but others too. It also helps to widen a vision or focus, creating space for what is still positive and possible rather than focusing on all that is going wrong or feels bad.
It is different to giving yourself permission to hide and get stuck in a victim mindset. Self compassion gives you the chance to say ‘ok this didn’t go quite as planned, I’m not quite where I want to be, but that’s ok and now what?’
From this place you are then full of a driving energy and sense of potential, even if rest is the answer. You are a step further forwards, rather than back.
It will give you empathy and the tools to hold space without embarrassment when someone breaks down unexpectedly in front of you, patience when communication from yourself and others is a challenge and a sense of calm or control in moments of confrontation and anger.
Ways To Use Self Compassion
Talk to yourself only as you would do a friend, family member or someone you love
Listen to your needs and the voice of your inner self rather than speaking down to yourself. You will never become the person you want to be if you don’t feel able to express yourself or take a few risks to get yourself out there.
When you make mistakes rather than berating yourself, find something positive from the experience - what have you learned, even if it’s that you need to spend less time around certain people or invested in a certain choice/goal
What is not yours to carry? By this I mean the actions of others - what are you blaming yourself for that isn’t your fault?
Reframe negative thoughts about your body to compassionate ones. Eg “I hate my legs” might become “I am so grateful to have legs that carry me”
When you struggle, ease the pressure. Remind yourself that you are human, that struggles can be times of great growth, but that your experiences are different to the person who you perceive to be ‘better’ than you. Focus on your own lane
Self compassion can help with boundaries - if you are exhausted and need a break saying “I’m really sorry I can’t join tonight” becomes a much easier thing to say when you are kindly listening to your own needs
How I Used Self Compassion Over The Last 7 Days
I have found the last week one of the hardest I have had emotionally in years. As a coach, the challenge of balancing my own well being alongside the day to day not only for my clients but also for life in general has felt like a hugely confusing and uncomfortable combination.
My creative mind spinning all sorts of visions, a strong tone of judgement in myself
“You’re a coach, you should be able to handle this. I can’t handle not being able to help those in need too, I feel guilt at how amazing my life is in comparison and how lucky I am yet still always want for more”
Self compassion allowed me to reply with, “no matter your title, your identity, your experiences, you are human. You are emotionally triggered (for whatever reason) yes perhaps your period is also due, but ultimately there has been unexpected and tragic news. This is your response. Now, how would you rather feel? How can you move through this? What do you need to do? How can you use all these feelings to drive and make positive change for others? What would Suzy say (the coach I have worked with over the years myself” What do I need to do to get this under control?”
Save the world, ideally, but unfortunately that’s too big a task, even for a big hearted coach like me! When we are zoomed out and see every miniscule problem of course it is overwhelming. This is where choosig to focus in on a specific area can be helpful to manage all the big feelings. This zooming in and out of perspectives (as if looking down from above or changing the size and weight of the challenges) can then help with managing emotions alongside having clarity on priorities.
Over the last week, I needed to go back to basics. I needed to get a handle on my emotions: Practicing self compassion gave me the space to not judge myself but to zoom out again to see where and what my priorities were and how I could best navigate the coming days to be a parent, a coach for clients, a business owner and the leader I want to be, to be able to zoom in with a smaller focus and handle it all together. I needed to be open with my partner about my feelings whilst also protecting myself and backing off from social media to be able to honour my values of authenticity. I backed off the effort on trying to build Club Thrive and focused on taking each day as it came. I also was quieter, and put my phone down more, to avoid seeing or reading anything else that would set me off. Self compassion reminded me that was ok, it wasn’t that I didn’t care, but that in fact I cared so much it was important to protect my own wellbeing to be able to help anyone else whatsoever. To be able to think more clearly.
On Tuesday I was due to go to work for the day and I just couldn’t. I had a shoot the next day so my focus was on trying to get in as best a place as possible mentally for that. I chose instead to go for a rooftop swim, the confusion inside swirling more with the insane juxtaposition of privilege. Safe, freedom to go in the first place, enjoying the sun, people watching as I went up and down the pool, albeit angrily and also sad for what was happening in the world.
A slow meander on the way back home via Westfields for a coffee. That night I struggled to contain my emotions, giving myself a hard time for doing so, feeling as though I had gone back a decade in my ability to regulate myself. On Wednesday morning before the shoot for Club Thrive I hurriedly packed a face mask on in an attempt to soothe my puffy eyes. A rushed self tape for a commercial all just feeling a bit ridiculous. Instagram splashing up the juxtaposition of a world in pain and another business coach spilling the details on how to make consistent 10k months.
There is an awkward guilt about the fact I can chose to delete my news app, I can try and avoid the details on social media whilst also being lured in for not wanting to seem ignorant or in denial. The bizarre dichotomy of adverts and posts as if nothing had ever happened alongside the gut wrenchingly harrowing details. As a parent now my heart has been torn to pieces with it all. But self compassion reminded me too it was ok to want to move through these feelings, to be able to work.
It reminded me I also have clients, and a need to put on a face that isn’t affected by the news to be able to deliver the best results with them.
Self compassion has given me the space to feel all these incredibly big emotions without shame, instead realizing I am not superhuman and that I do need to keep practicing what I preach. As the days passed the emotions became more manageable, even if I did have to consistently reframe thoughts and imagery in situations I found still triggered my imagination and feelings. I feel as though I have had a re-awakening to what is important in life: Family, health, friends and even financial freedom to be able to give to those who need help, are values that feel even more valuable than ever before. I certainly played more with Sienna last week, the moments that usually frustrate me seeming a huge joy compared to what many are experiencing at the moment. The knowledge that work is not as important as what I perceive it to be sometimes.
All life is valuable, including your own. In order to help those who are most vulnerable we do need to continuously practice self compassion to be in the best place possible to make the impact in the world we hope and dream of having. Be kind to yourself, it is the first step to a happier future hopefully not only for you but for those around you too.