As a first-generation Filipinx-American, I was raised to believe that when things get hard, you push through, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, get tough and work harder. So when I first heard of self-compassion, I thought it was just for people that didn’t know what “real” suffering was like.
I thought self-compassion was for wimps.
As I’ve worked with many clients over the years, I’ve found that I’m not the only one who finds self-compassion to be a foreign (no pun intended) concept.
Thankfully, one of my first teachers, Geshe Tsultrim Gyelsten, introduced me to Tonglen practice, and this compassion practice became one of my main transformative experiences. So there was a piece of me that knew if I could take the powerful energy of compassion and turn it towards myself, it could change a lot.
After having a regular practice since 2019, I realize now that self-compassion is a secret weapon! It’s what makes us resilient, helps us move on from difficult situations, and keeps us on the healthy path of growth.
In fact, research shows higher levels of self-compassion in military service people is associated with lower risks of PTSD, and veterans who learn self-compassion have less risk for suicide and way fewer PTSD symptoms.
Self-compassion is not for wimps. It is for soul warriors – like you and me.
Compassion can be easily defined as “being moved by the suffering of others, and being motivated to reduce that suffering.” Self-compassion is the same, but directed toward ourselves.
If you still can’t picture what self-compassion as a practice would look like, try imagining that a dear friend or loved one is having a difficult problem. What would you say to them? What simple message would you deliver, heart to heart?
Now, see if you can offer that same message to yourself. That’s the start of self-compassion – making friends with ourselves. It sounds corny. But it’s powerful.
And just like compassion toward others, it’s vital to have compassion for ourselves, too.
It doesn’t make us weaker or softer or more vulnerable.
In fact, research shows that those who practice it regularly can handle difficult life circumstances and trauma more effectively.
How does self-compassion do this?
On an emotional level, when we come up against a difficult emotion or situation, our natural stress response of fight/flight/freeze kicks in. These three can only bring on some seriously unhelpful reactions:
• We fight ourselves (self-criticism)
• We flee from others (isolation)
• We freeze (rumination and being stuck in our thoughts)
In contrast, when we learn self-compassion, we can use self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness to counteract these responses.
But the stress response is also physical. When we criticize ourselves, we tap into our threat-defense system (sometimes called our reptilian brain). It’s the quickest response we naturally give when there is a perceived danger.
This releases a host of hormones that tells us to fight/flight/freeze. It’s highly emotional, and a brain stuck in emotion is not an intelligent or wise mind.
Thankfully we’ve got more capacity than reptiles.
As mammals, our young are born vulnerable. To keep them safe until they can grow and adapt to their environment, the mammalian care system was evolved. When this activates, important positive hormones are released, which reduce stress and increase feelings of safety and security.
Self-compassion is linked to that care system. When we are compassionate toward ourselves, we begin to feel safe and cared for again. This helps us step into a place of wisdom and readiness.
When we practice these components of self-compassion, we are DEactivating the threat-defense system and activating the CARE system.
And once that care system is activated… once we are taking time to care for ourselves, nourish ourselves, and love ourselves… we can show up to do the same for the world!
Doing this is sometimes hard as hell, and there are some of us who find this more difficult than others. Those with a strong inner critic are set up to gain the most from this practice (you know, the ones who tend to stuff it down, buck up, and move on?). However they are also more resistant to self-compassion. Ask me how I know;)
In this pod, I’ll also teach you one of my favorite ways to practice self-compassion: the Self-Compassion Break. That alone is worth the listen!
Topics in this week’s podcast:
// The three core components of self-compassion
// How to use self-compassion to combat our inner critic, isolation, and being stuck in negative thoughts
// How self-compassion combats our stress responses
// Why is self-compassion so hard for some and easy for others?
// How to take a self-compassion break
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in finding out more about self-compassion, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into how to be mindfully self-compassionate all this month! There are also some sweet bonuses for you. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. This is an amazing group of rebels committed to creating lives of freedom, adventure and purpose.
You can even gift a Freedom School membership to someone that you know could use the boost and come together!
You’ll dive into getting clear about: what you want, how to clear your life of the things you don’t, skills for living an authentic life so you are out there being YOU and not what other people want you to be, and more.