Self Compassion Challenge
Happy New Year! I suppose this greeting sounds a bit late considering where we are on the calendar but, admittedly, I have spent much of January hibernating. I intentionally set out to stay home, curl up like a ball and do cozy things like baking, reading, playing games, and watching movies. There has been rain on and off which certainly helps with the theme of staying in and cozying up. I often take this hibernation period at the beginning of winter and use it as an opportunity to turn inwards and self-reflect. I used my hibernation period to take inventory of the past year and explore some intentions for 2019.
As I considered what I wanted for 2019, I thought about a workshop I had recently attended on mindful self-compassion. The concepts and practices I learned that day really rocked my world. The presenters were Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer who are experts in the field of mindful self-compassion. I listened eagerly as they shared statistics and data about how mindful self-compassion is helpful in so many ways including increasing our ability to cope, decreasing stress, and improving our self-perception.
In a nutshell, mindful self-compassion is a combination of being mindfully aware of your inner experience including what your sensations, feelings or thoughts are. Then, responding to yourself with kindness, warmth, and compassion, the same way you would a good friend or loved one. It’s a practice of self-kindness that invites us to be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harsh and judgmental. (For more info go to: https://self-compassion.org/)
That day I was gently guided through a variety of self-compassion exercises by the presenters. I remember at times feeling a level of peace and contentment that I hadn’t actually achieved in the past and I felt extraordinary relief in responding to myself with warmth vs. harshness. It felt powerful, comforting and uplifting to be able to experience such positive feelings towards myself. What I was unexpectedly struck by was how, sadly, at time it also felt foreign, as if responding to myself in this way was a language I couldn’t understand. How could treating myself kindly feel foreign? It was right then and there that I decided this needed to change because if I was going to struggle with simply being nice to myself, then clearly there was work there for me to do!
So, I decided for 2019, I was going to set an intention to be my own best friend. I was going to spend 2019 practicing daily self-compassion. I decided that I was no longer going to cause myself harm in any way, be it in spoken or written word, thoughts or behaviors. Instead, I was going to experiment with treating myself like my own best friend. I was going to challenge myself to practice radical self-love, self-acceptance and self-compassion. I got excited about how this experiment could turn out and plunged into it with an open mind and heart.
My first practice was to begin each day with greeting myself warmly first thing in the morning including offering myself loving touch, like a stroke to the cheek. It was initially quite awkward, I’ll admit but I slowly began to get comfortable with the good sensations it provided. I felt loved, cared for and happy just with that small gesture, and my day felt like it was off to a good start.
My second practice was to respond to myself with loving kindness and compassion every time I experienced a struggle, a hardship, or difficult feelings or experiences. This was initially quite challenging as old patterns of criticism and negativity, both towards myself and others, showed up and attempted to interfere. But, again I noticed that as I kept practicing, I could get through the challenging experience more smoothly and recover more quickly, and with less interference from old patterns.
The last practice was to, at the end of the day, praise myself for all I’d managed to get through and accomplish. There was no task considered too small to deserve being acknowledged. (Sometimes just matching socks are a win!) I would list out a few of my accomplishments as well as where I’d fallen short, responding to both experiences with gentleness and understanding. It energized me to acknowledge myself and my wins, as well as to offer myself compassion for the losses.
As my practice took momentum, I began to notice a few things changing in my life. For one, I was less irritable and stressed. I felt more relaxed overall and lighter in my body. I began to feel my pace slow down and I noticed that there was less tension between me and my family members. I noticed that as I was kinder and more considerate of myself, more space opened up for me to access activities that I enjoy and make me happy. I began to reconnect with myself in a deeper way and rediscovered many parts of who I am. I reacquainted myself with how much I love reading, knitting, and word puzzles, among other things. Needless to say, experimenting with this practice brought a lot of wonderful benefits for me.
So, now I challenge YOU to practice radical self-love, acceptance and compassion in 2019 and begin to notice what changes come about as a result. I challenge you to treat yourself like your own best friend, maybe even better perhaps, and see what it brings you.
Let’s get excited about how 2019 can be different by bringing in this very important practice of self-compassion into our lives. We are worth it!