By now, you’ve heard me mention self-compassion many times. Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher at University of Texas at Austin brought the concept of self-compassion into the mainstream conversation through her studies clarifying what it is and isn’t and what are the characteristics and experiences of people who practice it.
Put simply, self-compassion is NOT self-indulgence or self-pity. It’s not feeling badly for yourself and giving yourself undeserved latitude. It’s not even self-esteem, which can be surprising. Even though self-esteem has been touted as the measure of worthiness, it requires that we are “better than” others (who presumably are “less than”). Who needs that?
Self-compassion is defined as kindness over judgment, recognizing common humanity instead of feeling isolated, and being mindful – perceiving our thoughts and experiences as they are – rather than making more or less of them.
Another piece in the self-compassion puzzle seems to be the capacity to recognize that as complex emotional beings, we often experience multiple simultaneous feelings. Some of these will feel like they conflict with one another. This can feel very confusing and may rouse a desire to simplify our experiences, thereby denying a part of what we truly feel.
This is why I contend that self-compassion includes the capacity to hold multiple ‘truths’ at the same time. It is kind in that it includes the full complexity of our experience and denies nothing, it represents our common humanity as expansive and multifaceted human beings, and is honest without making something more than or less than it truly is.
The next time you find yourself having an emotional reaction to something (which, for me, is basically every second of every day), consider taking a moment to open your mind to the full range of your experience. Are there multiple, complex responses to whatever it is you’re experiencing. Do some of them seem to conflict or are not often in co-existence. How does it feel to expand to accommodate multiple ‘truths’ simultaneously.
Please feel free to report back.