“Self Compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others”. This quote by **Christopher Germer is something I try to keep in mind and I know many of you reading this probably need to hear this too. It took a lot for me to realize this and even now I am still learning how to practice it.
WHERE MY JOURNEY STARTED
After a health scare last fall, I quit my job. Nothing wakes you up quite like hearing your 13 year old talking to a 911 operator. Her little voice was trembling and yet it was obvious that she was trying to keep it together and be brave for her little sister who was freaking out. Just awful. I am about to ugly cry just revisiting that moment. A hospital stay and many tests later, I gave 8 weeks notice (because I really love my customers and my colleagues). Let me tell you, it was HARD! So hard to walk away even though I knew I had to. I left determined to prioritize all the things that I was too busy to do. I had a list, I had timelines and I had a renewed sense of determination to be a better version of me for our family.
WHAT HAPPENED THEN?
A month after I quit, my father in law started getting very ill. Because I was not working, I naturally stepped in to help with the doctor visits, communicating with healthcare workers and being the main point of contact with the multiple specialists. When he was admitted to the hospital, it also happened to be right when Covid started. Soon, I found myself drowning again. The maniacal balancing act of simultaneously attending to the needs of our kids, the home, planning, prepping and cooking healthy meals daily etc, felt like a 50 ton boulder on my shoulder. How did I find myself here so quickly? Well, in hindsight, it was because I would not allow myself to stop or even pause for a minute. The itty bitty crappy committee in my head reminded me that I’m not working anymore so how could I NOT be doing all this? It felt like I should be grateful and this was the least I could do. I didn’t feel worthy of practicing self compassion because I was so fortunate.
WHAT TO DO?
1. Accept and Acknowledge – It’s ok that things are getting done poorly
In stolen moments, I found my mind wondering, “How did I take care of the home and hold a demanding high profile job that also included frequent travel?!”. The answer to that question is… drum roll please… Badly. I did it badly. Let’s be honest; Besides myself, the people who always took a back seat were my kids and the husband. It literally broke my heart to admit it but it’s true. Despite my zealous efforts, I was barely making it out in one piece at the end of the day. To show kindness to myself, I had to learn that acknowledging that some things just don’t get done right is completely ok and there is no need to beat myself up about it.
2. Recenter and Refocus: Convert tough moments to empowering ones
Why am I ok with acknowledging that things were getting done poorly? Because these moments of realization help me recenter and refocus. It helps remind me of what matters most. It reminds me to be kind to myself and prioritize me too. When these moments hit me, it feels like someone is shaking me to wake me up from a dream. It’s a wake up call to practice self compassion, love and kindness. Sacrificing my physical, emotional health and well-being is not the answer to being a good parent, wife, family member or even colleague. Say it with me: Sacrificing your needs and happiness is NOT the answer. You matter too.
3. Lean on friends and family: You are not alone!
My friends and I lean on each other often to remind us to be kinder to ourselves. It’s ok that dinner was leftovers or frozen pizza. We often spend so much time on the guilt that comes with what we didn’t do that we miss what we get in return. Did frozen pizza relieve me of 30 minutes or 1 hour of cooking? Does that mean less dishes to clean? What could I do with that extra hour I just bought yourself? Nothing? That. Sounds. Perfect. Can I play or watch a movie with the kids? These are all great options worth that trade off. Many times, practicing self kindness also allows me to show up even better for others because I feel lighter and happier.
4. Redefine Kindness: What does kindness mean to you?
Kindness does not have to be about making a sacrifice at your expense. Growing up, I quickly realized that prioritizing yourself is often seen as being selfish. There was a strong underlying notion that to lead an honorable life, there has to be suffering and sacrifice involved. While I am incredibly proud of all the values I’ve inherited, what I’ve been learning to be better at is to quiet the noise that the itty bitty crappy committee in my head hurls at me whenever I’m trying to prioritize myself. Whenever I hear something that starts to make me feel guilty, I acknowledge it, take a breath and remind myself that everyone matters and that includes me. Because Kindness? Kindness is also about self love so you can continue to be the amazing, loving and giving person that you are.
What are things you do to demonstrate kindness to yourself? How do you practice self compassion? Please share them with us in the comments or send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org
Need ideas? We’ve put together a kindness BINGO for you and anyone in the family below!
** Christopher Germer is a clinical psychologist, meditation practitioner, author, and teacher of mindfulness and compassion. Co-developer of the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training program.
Here are some books on the topic!