Most of us have a natural compassion towards others. We see someone struggling or suffering and it’s our human nature to want to extend a hand, to offer loving kindness and to want to help. Yet, when we look inward, many of us struggle to offer ourselves the same kindness.
Self-compassion means to extend love, friendliness and acceptance to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. To some extent, self-compassion also has the meaning of trusting oneself – trusting that we have what it takes to know ourselves thoroughly and completely without feeling hopeless, without turning against ourselves because of what we see. Self-compassion is a form of faith: a faith in the way we hold our conversation with life.
The Dalai Lama says that having compassion for oneself is the basis for developing compassion for others. When we have learned to have compassion for ourselves, this leads us naturally to unlimited friendliness toward others.
Here are three key steps to cultivating a deeper sense of self-compassion:
1. You don’t have to be better than you are.
Know that you are enough. You don’t have to be better, faster, prettier, sexier, richer, or skinnier than you are in this very moment. As Mary Oliver so poignantly said, “You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.” We need to stop being so mean to ourselves. Drop the hustle, relax and know that we don’t need a new-and-improved version of you. We’re not waiting for You 2.0 and neither should you. Who you are, what you look like, what you’ve accomplished (or not): it’s enough for right now.
2. Don’t be afraid of the dark.
Healing happens in the dark places. We often avoid our shadow sides, the dark sides, the underbelly of our personality. To have self-compassion, we must learn that our darkness is equally as important as our brightness. Many of us avoid our inner-selves because we’re afraid of what we might find. We might feel a sense of shame, regret or sadness about our history, mistakes we’ve made, or things that have happened to us. But to truly heal, forgive and find compassion, we must go into those dark places within us. We must shine a light on our past to offer kindness, understanding and forgiveness.
3. Give your inner hero a break.
Stop relying on your strong side, your courageous side, your confident side and give your inner hero a break. Sometimes the hero is worn out, depleted, tired, or overwhelmed and instead, we need to rely on our broken pieces to limp us across the finish line. Instead of trying to manage our flaws to keep them hidden, sometimes we need to lean on those self-perceived “flaws” to find out that they are our greatest assets. This doesn’t mean: I love myself in spite of my flaws. And it doesn’t mean: I love myself because of my flaws. It means that you’ve really come to the understanding that there are no flaws. Instead, you simply find loving kindness toward every part of yourself.