Recently I was able to see Kristin Neff speak and I got to give her a hug and thank her for the work she does. When I was going through a very hard time I came across her TED Talk on self-compassion. I reflected back on all the gifts self-compassion has given me and how I continue to use it.
I used to be very hard on myself and thought constantly about how I needed to lose weight or do things differently and I spent a great deal of energy ruminating on the past. As a Buddhist I try to take better care to focus on the current moment vs. live in the past, but it was not until I really started to incorporate daily self-compassion that I was able to let things go. I had to let go of bad relationships and to let go of blaming myself for everything under the sun I could imagine judging myself on. I had to let myself heal and reframe how I felt about myself to start creating real and lasting happiness and change.
One of the most striking things to realize is that being hard on myself does not in fact make me better. It does not make me a harder worker. Being hard on myself is not why I have been able to accomplish anything in my life. It has instead kept me from being the best version of myself and moreover the happiest version.
I have been in toxic relationships with narcissists and people that simply did not treat me with respect. I have gained and lost and gained weight. I have missed out on career opportunities because I was scared and in turmoil personally. I have made mistakes. In summary, I am human. Letting go of hating and judging myself for being at times deeply flawed has been life changing and helped me keep everything in perspective.
This isn’t to say I don’t want to improve, but when you take out the judgement and have compassion for yourself it makes it a lot easer to make real improvements and realize some things are fine as they are now. Instead of judging myself for staying connected to toxic people, I am being braver in cutting ties when I need to and not living in the past thinking about what I did wrong and over analyzing everything. Instead of judging myself for gaining weight and not yet losing it I am compassionate with myself that I have had health and logistical issues standing in my way, but that I know I will work hard and get back to physical fitness because it is not about looks so much as it is about being kind to my body. And I am more compassionate that I have put too much focus on my career and less on my dreams during much of my life. I am giving myself permission to just let it all go and focus on the here and now and what I can do now to be happy in this moment and make sure my future is happy.
As it works out daily, when I feel bad about myself I take a moment to check in and just tell myself to relax. I put my hand on my heart and focus on being kind to myself.
This also comes up when I deal with bullies or thinking about past bullies. Sadly some people are not mature enough to treat others with respect. So one way self-compassion has helped is that I am making an effort to check in with myself and not be defensive as not everyone is a bully. I found myself feeling very defensive automatically due to having had to defend myself. I also check in with myself to make sure that I am not making the choices they do. Kindness is always a choice. Being kind to yourself is the first step. You can’t better yourself by beating yourself up. And you can’t let go of toxic people or their thoughts and words without loving yourself first.
The gifts of self-compassion are found in a happier life in the moment, a way to let go of the past and see mistakes with a more realistic detached view, and loving yourself enough to not let someone else pull you down. Self-compassion is a way to be more successful, to be at peace, and to let go of the past to make space for a better future. Funny enough, self-compassion is not so much centered on self as it is treating yourself fairly. Self-compassion makes compassion for other people easier. No longer do I fixate on the past and I am able to think of the present with a clearer mind. Self-compassion is the best gift you can ever give yourself and those around you.