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 heck? 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. And in terms of priority, the dis-compassion if first.

Self-compassion is sort of a belief. It can exist in any moment. Or you can resist almost on principle. But self-compassion is the truth for all of us. Other’s may not give us compassion. But we always deserve it from ourselves. That belief of deserving self-compassion can fade into the background when we’re stressed … primarily because we disconnect from ourselves during stress.

When we careen through the tasks of our day, with no connection to ourselves and our needs, we forget that deservingness and can’t be responsive to the needs that only we 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 are going to be crossed.

The roles we take on as adults….employee, spouse, parent, loved one…those roles don’t include passive protection. We must actively watch over our needs, because eventually someone will ask for more than we 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, often spills into lack of momentary 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. It is relieving and liberating to accept your human limits with compassion.

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