How Self-Compassion Supports Resiliency, At Work & At Home
Just be kind to yourself. How hard can it be? Turns out, like many aspects of mindful living, self-compassion is simple, but not easy. Self-compassion is one's ability to be a witness to their own suffering, with a kind and gentle heart. The truth is, I really struggle with self-compassion. I understand it logically in my thinking brain, but putting it into practice and FEELING it in my day to day life has always been difficult.
If you struggle with being overly critical of yourself and others ... keep reading! :)
I want to share with you two stories about how I've struggled to treat myself kindly, both at work and at home, and how mindfulness has helped me to make small meaningful shifts to improve my self-compassion practice. I'll also share a 10-minute meditation practice (video at bottom of post) to quickly shift from a self-critical mindset to that of a self-compassionate mindset.
Hopefully, you'll feel inspired to get curious about your own relationship to self-compassion. By observing your own tendencies, you empower yourself to become not only kinder, but you'll also become more resilient.
Resilience is one's ability to recover from difficult experiences. As I've become more aware of how I respond to life's challenges, I've discovered that a compassionate mindset is a critical step to building resilience. The two qualities, self-compassion and resilience, support one another. Here's a few stories to help illustrate this connection.
Story 1: Self-Compassion At Home
My daughter, Piper, is two. My husband and I are are currently working on getting her to stop using a pacifier. Somedays it's easy. Other days, she resists it. Sometimes I'm able to remain calm and patient if she gets upset. Yesterday was not one of those days. When I told her it was time to put the pacifier down, she cried. In that moment, I couldn't tolerate her being upset. I gave in and handed her the pacifier.
BOOM. Within seconds, my inner critique said "You're a bad mom who can't set boundaries."
Logically, I know I'm a good mom capable of setting boundaries for my daughter. I do it all the time! But it was through an intentional self-compassion practice that I was able to really FEEL my goodness.
I managed to pause and take a few deep breaths (mindfulness). I decided to wait a few minutes and then try again. This is where the resilience piece comes into play. I suffered a set back, but she and I both needed to get back on the proverbial horse. The way back was not through self-criticism. It was through compassion.
Sharon Salzberg says that "Compassion is the movement of the heart in recognizing our own or someone else’s vulnerability. We move towards that person, to see if we can be of help." I saw my daughter's vulnerability. I also saw my own. I offered her as much compassion as I could as we navigated tears. I hugged her. I validated her feelings. She recovered and quickly (resilience) and moved on to playing with her toys... withOUT her pacifier!
So, if you're ever struggling to treat yourself kindly, consider how you would treat a loved one going through the same challenge. In the process of showing my daughter compassion, I was able to give myself the same treatment. In doing so, we both bounced back quickly and managed to carry on with our day.
Story 2: Self -Compassion At Work
A few months ago, I was scheduled to teach a live virtual class for our Unfold Digital PLUS membership. But, I didn't show up to teach. Time got away from me and I simply forgot.
While I did manage to start class about 15 minutes late, and all of our devoted students where VERY understanding, it's an understatement to say that I felt frazzled. While I know logically that mistakes happen, I felt deeply ashamed. I was not compassionate towards myself for making a mistake. I was extremely critical. Physically, my stomach was tight, my breathing was fast, and I felt my anxiety kick-in. Looking back, it sounds extreme to type this, but I felt like a failure.
Logically, I know this isn't true. But my heart needed a little reminder. After class, I took a break. I went outside for a walk. The gentle movement helped my nervous system to digest the stressful event and I was able to shift into a more compassionate mindset.
After my walk, I sat back down in my office, placed my hand on my heart, and offered my-self a few kind words. I said to myself, "Everything is alright. You just lost track of time - it happens. You're a good teacher and responsible business owner. Keep going!" And just like that, little self-compassion opened the door to resilience.
In Conclusion ... Mindfulness!
Both of these stories contain the common thread of mindfulness. In order to even realize that self-compassion is in order, one must recognize they're in a state of judgement. This is mindfulness in action. Like I stated at the beginning of this post - it's simple, but not easy.
So, the next time you notice yourself struggling to be self compassionate, try this very simple practice. Pause, observe the struggle without judgement. Hold yourself gently in the moment by placing your hand on your heart. Offer yourself a few kind words. Breathe.
The physical act of gently touching your own heart has the capacity to shift your nervous system from a state of stress, into a state of calm. It's a way to soothe yourself - a tender loving touch. I've recorded a 10-Minute Class to guide you through it (video below). Follow along, right at your desk.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our newsletter to receive weekly 10-Minute Tune-Ups and wellbeing inspiration. These classes are quick office-friendly chair yoga and meditation breaks to get you moving, breathing, and de-stressed - no change of clothing or equipment needed. Happy moving. :)
Katie Rowe Mitchell