Self-Compassion: Simply Part of Being Alive
July 17, 2019 3:18 PM   Subscribe

Compassion for others feels so much easier to have than compassion for yourself. You can't know anyone else, there's always a wall, some kind of plausible deniability to the worst of humanity. I do know myself, and can better determine if I am worthy of compassion. What then, when the conclusion is that you are not?

The first one has an part "How would you treat a friend?"

Well, the compassion I have for my friends is fueled by me being ignorant of them, if I knew them the way I know myself, and they turned out to be like myself, I don't think I would treat them with as much compassion or even be their friend.

Reading through the exercises, many of them make me cringe to imagine myself doing or they involve saying things I would be uncomfortable saying or would say them without feeling them. The locating "felt sense" is one of the more helpful readable links I've browsed here, at the very least it doesn't have much newagey-ness to it and doesn't force me to make uncomfortable or deceitful statements to myself.

Sorry for having the only comment so far be kind of antithetical to the sentiment, if this is just too negative or self-specific please delete
posted by GoblinHoney at 4:01 PM on July 17, 2019 [9 favorites]

I really just had the shittiest day. I have not clicked on one link. Just partially reading the list almost made me cry. Bookmarked for later. Thank you for your service.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 4:12 PM on July 17, 2019 [11 favorites]

Well, the compassion I have for my friends is fueled by me being ignorant of them, if I knew them the way I know myself, and they turned out to be like myself, I don't think I would treat them with as much compassion or even be their friend.

Do you have more contempt for people you know very well, or is it the comparison to yourself that you recoil from? We all reveal our flaws with more intimacy and closeness. Is it just flaws like your own that are repulsive?

I have a hell of a time with this topic, too, and am looking forward to settling into the links. But this question stuck out at me.
posted by sciatrix at 4:56 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

Its been hard for me, too, to do this practice, even though I’ve really needed it. I had the chance to attend one of Chris Germer’s all day sessions on mindful self-compassion, and found it really helpful. It’s something that I still struggle with, but the approach shifted my thinking from something like self care (how can I be kind to myself?) to self acceptance (how can I be with this suffering?). I can occasionally provide much needed support for myself during difficult periods. It ties in well with IFS therapy and has become a piece of my ongoing work. I really recommend it.

Thanks for posting the links - I look forward to digging in.
posted by Otherwise at 5:30 PM on July 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

When green is all there is to be,
It could make you wonder why,
But why wonder, why wonder?
I am green and it'll do fine.
It's beautiful,
And I think it's what I want to be.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:23 PM on July 17, 2019 [5 favorites]

How kind of you to post this.
posted by slidell at 7:29 PM on July 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

It’s hard to love yourself when you didn’t ask to be born.
posted by gucci mane at 10:01 PM on July 17, 2019 [6 favorites]

I once skeptically but with disciplined enthusiasm followed an exercise which involved hugging myself. It was so profound that I never did it again, a. because it's weird that wrapping my arms around myself brought on a fit of crying what the, and b. I was afraid that I might miss another human being to lean into and cry on.
posted by b33j at 1:51 AM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I wanted to say something here. I started (and deleted) words over and over, but I just couldn't find the words without breaking down. The topic is too real...too raw...for me. I'll just fave what gucci mane said and leave it at that.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:55 AM on July 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Research shows that people who lack self-compassion are likely to have critical mothers, to come from dysfunctional families, and to display insecure attachment patterns [...]"

Yay! I won a round of incredibly shitty bingo!
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:12 AM on July 18, 2019 [11 favorites]

I struggle with this and had a really rough time reading Kristin Neff's book.

I want to say...I won the shitty bingo round too, and while being told to be more compassionate with and kind to myself grates and makes me nauseated and doesn't sound right, other kinds of treating myself better have helped me a lot. It doesn't work to tell me to love myself and it REALLY doesn't help to tell me that I can't love anyone else until I love myself, that's so counterproductive. But it works to tell me that my reactions to things are human, that I am human, and what I'm feeling is OK and I shouldn't fight it. There's a way to make it hurt less for you, is what I'm saying, even if it's tough to find.
posted by wellred at 5:37 AM on July 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

Thank you for this. I have been lurking awhile but I felt compelled to sign up in order to thank you for these links. They helped me just when I needed to gather some bravery about communicating feelings in a healthy way rather than relying on ingrained habits.
posted by ramble-on-prose at 6:26 AM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

At some point a year or so ago, I started looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying I Love You to myself. And it felt awkward as shit, but I kept it up. And now it's just a constant part of my self talk. It became part of a mantra as I processed a breakup over the winter - It's Ok. I know. I Love You. It's ok that you're feeling what you're feeling. I know that it's real and it's hard. I love you. It's so cheesy but it's so helpful to constantly be assuring myself, and constantly checking in on how I'm doing and supporting myself.

I think after my first major breakup 10 years ago I realized that I'm the only constant in my life, the only person I can always count on to be there. And that's sad, but it means that I don't want to waste any time tearing myself down. It's only counter productive.

I know it's cheese and naive and optimistic and privileged, but honestly just reassuring myself of that love, as someone who has had periods of intense self hatred, has done so many wonders for my wellbeing and general confidence. I can't recommend it enough.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:21 AM on July 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

Another bingo winner here. I'll never forget the first time I received an unqualified or non-backhand piece of praise from a family member. It's easy to remember because I was in my thirties at the time. We're just not a positive-feedback kind of family, I guess.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:54 AM on July 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to say that I hear all of you who are saying that this is hard, or that you didn't ask to be born, or any of the more nuanced and difficult ways this plays out for people. The entire reason I started doing this work is because I realized about 2 years ago that I had very little if any capacity to be kind to myself, and 2019 has been the year of trying really hard to not be so cruel to myself in my head. I am 7.5 months in, and about a month ago I had my first truly spontaneous thought about my own worth, unconnected to something I can do for someone else, but my inherent worth. I am going to be 38 this year, and I have really never had that happen before. It was a revelation. So I see all of you, and I feel you, and your experience is valid, too.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 11:04 AM on July 18, 2019 [8 favorites]

My therapist told me to buy Kristin Neff's book a couple of weeks ago. I did, and started reading it, but then got stuck on the long, involved exercises at the end of each chapter. I couldn't get past the first chapter because I felt like I had to devote hours to doing the exercises, otherwise I wasn't doing it "right." The next week I relayed my anxiety to my therapist and he gave me permission to skip the exercises, which was a huge weight off my shoulders. So, if anyone else buys that book and gets stuck, I am giving you permission to just read the book and not feel like you have to do the exercises! <3
posted by GoldenEel at 11:46 AM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

I literally can't click on any of these. I can't do it.

This is not complaint or criticism. And there are moments when I've felt some compassion or acceptance towards myself.

But the question i have, is when you're too far gone to take even advice you give yourself, what happens? Advice about making one's life better always begins with decisions and actions by the struggling person. Sometimes those aren't possible. The follow-up advice is to do the things you can until you improve enough to do the harder ones.

But what if there's literally nothing? What if you're someone who's paced the walls of your life a million times, looking for purchase, but finding none?

I know how that story ends. It ends the way all such do, barring unexpected changes in the world beyond the ability of the struggling to effect, but within their capacity to imagine. And so you walk the walls one more day, hoping the world will change because you can't change it, but expecting nothing, hope itself eroding as the years go by.

And against that reality, the idea of feeling compassion for yourself just seems like a bleak mind game.
posted by allium cepa at 5:57 PM on July 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

The compassion break has changed my and many other people's lives. But I had to first understand that self-compassion isn't the same thing as self-love or self-esteem and it wasn't about letting myself off the hook for anything either. It was simply holding my suffering with kindness instead of cruelty.

I was reminded that it's practice because if I want to get good at something I suck at I would have to practice. I found the 3 steps of the self-compassion break simple enough to practice on a regular basis and after a while it got easier and it made a huge difference in quieting my over-active mean inner critic.

Step 1 and 2 were the easiest (step 1: notice the pain and label it: "I'm suffering" step 2: remember the common humanity: "Other people are suffering too, many just like me so I'm just human and not alone." It's the third step of reaching for something kind to say to myself that was the hardest. I started with simply wishing myself well. "May I be well." I could do that truthfully. I don't think it's ever helpful to say "I love myself just as I am" if that isn't true. You just feel like a liar. But it is always true that I wish I felt better. I wish I were well. ect. That's all it takes to be kind. To wish myself well as opposed to be telling myself I deserve to feel shitty.

Compassion isn't designed to "fix" anything. It doesn't take away suffering but by holding the suffering with kindness it doesn't add to the suffering as active self-flagellation/judgement/hatred does. It's a practice that works to lighten the load of living where suffering is a reality.
posted by Plafield at 11:12 AM on July 19, 2019 [8 favorites]

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