Why self-compassion is a prerequisite for mindfulness

Maybe one of these sounds familiar?

  1. You’re behind on several tasks at home or work and that dark feeling of delinquency comes over you saying “What is wrong with me? … Everyone else is on top things.”
  2. Or your spouse comes home in a rotten mood and suddenly you feel kind of bad about yourself saying “They wouldn’t be talking to me like this if I had… or I hadn’t….”
  3. Or your boss says “no” to a request for something at work and an internal battle begins like “What the hell? They don’t appreciate anything I do here”… but a few seconds later self-doubt creeps in and you start thoughts like “If I had the respect that ‘so-and-so’ does, I would have gotten a ‘yes’ no problem.”

These are examples of stress-thinking that can seem to happen automatically. They are also moments of dis-compassion rather than self-compassion.

Self-compassion is a belief. It can exist in any moment, or you can resist it. But it’s the truth for all of us.  And one of the biggest determinants of our ability to be self-compassionate, is simply our connection or disconnection from ourselves.

When you careen through the tasks of your day, with no connection to yourself and your needs, you can’t be responsive to the needs that only you can meet. No one else can respond to your physical exhaustion, momentary loneliness or surpassed patience limit. You have to be mindful to feel when those thresholds have been crossed.

The roles we take on as adults….employee, spouse, parent, loved one…those roles don’t include passive protection. You must actively watch over your needs, because eventually someone will ask for more than you can authentically give.

When you’re in a mindless state, you don’t know when or how you need to say “no,” or adjust course. And often the mindlessness that keeps you from being compassionate to yourself, also prevents compassion for others. That’s how we end up doing or saying things we regret.

So what can you do to be more self-compassionate?

  1. Make a decision today to allow yourself to feel stressful feelings like exhaustion, sadness, or even anger more consciously.
  2. Name your specific feelings when you feel that sort of stress,
  3. Commit to a more kind and responsive stance with yourself (or try to at least notice when you are minimizing your own needs)
  4. And most importantly, when possible, take action to take care of yourself. Give yourself that permission: Do you need rest, to talk, to move? The answers change over time, and may not be “pull out your phone” as often as instinct might tell you.

It’s honorable to want to do it all and “not complain”. But stress is real. And it is relieving and liberating to embrace self-compassion.

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