A dear friend brought the teachings of self-compassion to me last year. She introduced me to the work of Dr. Kristin Neff. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her TED talk. She also has a book, but it was a bit too scholarly for me. Instead, the book on the topic that really spoke to me was by Dr. Christopher Germer. So good.
Self-compassion is what I turn to when I have a child screaming in my face. It is what wraps its arms around me when I lay myself to sleep at 8:45 because I just need the day to be over and am thoroughly exhausted with interacting with a child who has held onto his seething anger at me for over 5 hours.
Sometimes I first fall into self pity, but that is a pit that only makes me feel worse and leads to seeing myself as a martyr. Not a path that leads to much peace and love.
So, I’m so grateful that I’ve learned self-compassion. It is so simple and seems so obvious but it is so far removed from our modern culture.
What does self-compassion look like for me? Talking to myself the way I’d talk to a good friend in my shoes. Sometimes literally giving myself a hug. Having empathy and compassion for myself when I’m in really stressful and challenging situations.
This morning, I’m also thinking about self-appreciation. Kristin Neff has this great article on her website on the topic. Gosh, I needed to read this. Today. This morning at 6am as I am preparing for my day. Focusing on my faults go hand in hand with feeling like a martyr. When my child acts in a way that I can’t understand, shows zero gratitude, and is lashing out at all of us, my mind’s default is to start highlighting all the mistakes I’ve made and all the ways I am not doing a good job as a parent. Crazy, isn’t it? When I stop reacting to what is happening around me, I can acknowledge that I know that my child is a child. He’s still emotionally immature. His behavior is not a reflection of me. His lack of gratitude for all I do for him isn’t personal and it doesn’t have to be a blow to me. His behavior and attitude is a reflection of his immaturity and the fact that he’s a child!
So, this morning, I’m reflecting on appreciating myself. I don’t need to wait for others to appreciate me, including my child or my husband. As Neff writes in the article,
William James, one of the founding fathers of Western psychology, once wrote that “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Luckily, we can meet this essential need without depending on other people to approve of us. When we treat ourselves with the same kindness with which we treat our good friends, we’ll have the support and care required to help us thrive.
I close with this quote from Dr. Robert Holden. I must remind myself of this daily. How often do we believe it is external circumstances that dictate our happiness? I do, all too often. But happiness is a choice. And it is a choice I want to make.