Self Compassion

What makes it hard to be compassionate to yourself? 

What did you learn growing up, from school, work, your family, or community about being compassionate to yourself?

Did you hear things like; ‘Get going’, ’you’re just feeling sorry for yourself’ or ‘you’re just having a pity party’. ‘be strong’, ‘be productive’, don’t waste your time’, ‘stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about’ or any other things.

Is it easier to be compassionate with others than with yourself or are they equally difficult?

Are there people or groups of people where it’s hard to be compassionate?

In Buddhism, we talk about opening our hearts.  But we often find ourselves closing our hearts too.  To ourselves and others.

The Buddha taught that two qualities need to be developed: wisdom and compassion, like 2 wings on a butterfly. Both are needed to fly.  Wisdom can also be translated as discernment, insight, consciousness, and deep understanding of the teachings.  Compassion is often meant to be active sympathy or a willingness to bear the pain of others including our own pain.

The Buddha is believed to have said, ”You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Yet we find it difficult to accept this.

Yongey Mingyhur Rinpoche, a Tibetan teacher talks about being appreciative of 5 things: your body and senses (taste delicious food, feel bodily sensations, see the world, hear music and the teachings), that I’m alive now and breathing and born in a place where I can choose if and how to practice meditation, an abundance of teachings is available, that I can become aware, and have the ability to develop wisdom and compassion.

It seems in our Western culture we’re not taught to be compassionate to ourselves. We have to develop it on our own.  Western culture is focused on individualism, perfectionism, competition, success, and wealth.  In fact, being compassionate to ourselves can be viewed as being weak, lazy, or self-indulgent.  It’s not seen as a strength to be compassionate to ourselves much less to others.

Think of these sayings!

Put on your big girl pants and stop whining!

Man up!

Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!

Our society tends to reward toughing things out more than it does being kind and nurturing to yourself.  Sometimes we do need to push forward, work hard, and put your nose to the grindstone but not as a way of life.  

Self-compassion involves your health and well-being. Self-indulgence is about getting anything and everything you want without thoughts of well-being.

Self-compassion is about becoming aware of and sitting with your pain. Self-indulgence numbs and denies your pain.

Self-compassion recognizes we’re all part of humanity and we all suffer.

Note that trying to make pain go away with self-compassion is just another way to repress pain and hurt. 

Self-compassion is about being with your suffering in a kind, loving way, not about making pain disappear.

Research shows that in trying to develop a new behavior, we should attach it to something we already do routinely.  Like brushing our teeth, drinking coffee or tea, eating meals, eating snacks, stopping at a stop sign or red light, etc.  Use these reminders to be compassionate or any others that you have found helpful.

I find it easy to be compassionate to others, but I have to remind myself to be compassionate to myself.  So I place sticky notes here and there as reminders.  Over time we change our old habits.

When you are having a difficult time, “lend a soft shoulder to your experience,” instead of berating yourself.

You may find your own words or phrases that work for you. Post them around your house to remind you. In trying to develop a new behavior, it takes time.

When you find yourself being critical or judgmental of yourself, ask yourself how you would react if a dear friend came to you with a similar situation.  What would you say or do?

Notice how you feel before and after being self-compassionate.  

With any situation you’re facing, there are probably millions if not billions of people who have faced the same or similar situation.  You are not alone.  We are all imperfect. We are all vulnerable.  We all suffer. We are part of humanity.  This connects us with others, instead of isolating ourselves in our pain.

It takes strength and courage to be kind and compassionate.

Photo by he zhu on Unsplash

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

Learn More!


About Erica Dutton

Erica Dutton is an experienced teacher and practitioner of Reflective Meditation. She has dedicated herself to sharing this practice so others can succeed in meditation, see their experience as important and valuable, and realize the benefits.

One Comment

  1. Beautiful sentiments, very helpful. I will pass this on to a friend who is dealing with some difficult issues right now.

    Thank you. Suzan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *