I invite you to think back into the past for a moment and recall a time when you truly felt loved. It might have been by a pet, friend, teacher, aunt, uncle, grandparent, parent, partner, the universe, or life itself. 

Notice what happens in your body when you remember receiving this love.

Now, I invite you to remember a moment when you truly loved another. Perhaps it was a child, a friend, an animal, or even a place. 

Notice what happens in your body when you remember what it feels like to love.

This is how self-compassion feels.

Self-compassion is the antidote to fear.

My clients often come to me struggling with self-doubt and anxiety. They worry about what other people will think of them if they say the wrong thing. Sometimes, the stress seems to be free-floating, not connected to any main source at all.

They’ve tried figuring out how to make their stress go away, and while some things may have helped, they still struggle. I teach my clients many strategies for creating a sense of calm, confidence, and clarity; but the most powerful practice I’ve found for soothing fear and doubt is responding with self-compassion.

Awareness. Kindness. Common Humanity.

Self-compassion is the act of witnessing your inner experience without judgment and accompanying yourself with kindness. Kristin Neff, a self-compassion researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, writes that there are three pillars of self-compassion: awareness, self-kindness, and common humanity:  

  • Awareness is the act of stepping back and witnessing your physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judgment, without trying to change them. 
  • Self-Kindness is offering yourself the warmth and care that you’d offer a loved one. 
  • Common Humanity is knowing that even though you may feel incredibly lonely, thousands (or, more likely, millions) of people around the world and across time have experienced challenges similar to yours. You are not alone.

Self-compassion has many benefits, including:

One: As Inside, So Outside.

Perhaps the most powerful gift we can give another person is to truly see and hear them. It is much easier to offer this gift to someone else when we are able to give it to ourselves. When we understand ourselves, it is far easier to understand others. When we are kind to ourselves, it is far easier to be kind to others.

Two: Smart Decisions.

When you’re facing a big decision that has the potential of changing your life and you keep going back and forth about what to do next, fear and doubt can make it hard to hear your inner wisdom. Self-compassion can help you quiet the inner noise so that you can make a better decision. 

When we change the way we speak to ourselves, we literally change the way our brains work. We relink parts of the body-brain that were previously disconnected. These brain changes make it easier to access information from the heart, gut, and body. As a result, it becomes easier to access your full intelligence and discern which path to take.

Three: Taking Risks & Getting Back Up.

The more you see yourself as one of the countless travelers on a journey through the unknown, the more likely you are to pick yourself back up when you inevitably fall and keep moving forward. The more you accompany yourself with kindness, the safer you’ll feel to take a risk knowing that you’re worthy of love, no matter what. 

Soothing Touch

Soothing Touch is one practice that can quickly help you feel the benefits of self-compassion.  

I invite you to try this now:

Bring to mind a slightly stressful situation. Make it something not too intense for this first round of practice, like a three on a scale of one to ten in which ten is the most stressful. Allow yourself to feel a bit of the stress in your body.

If you’re left-handed, pick up your left hand, and if you’re right-handed, pick up your right hand. Then, place that hand on your opposite cheek and the other hand on your opposite shoulder. Allow the weight of your head to settle into your hand, gently supporting your cheek. Hug yourself with the hand on your shoulder. Take in the sensation of warmth, of being held, of self-kindness.

How do you feel?

At first, you might feel awkward or silly. And if you’ve been stressed for a long time, it might take some time for you to feel the effects of this practice. But if you allow yourself to receive the warmth of your own embrace (and you have enough privacy not to feel too awkward), you’ll probably notice that it feels pretty good. 

I invite you to experiment and try out different soothing touches until you find one that feels good for you. You might want to cross your arms and hug yourself, hold your hands, stroke your arms or hair, or place one or two hands over your heart, face, or belly. 

I am wishing you many moments of self-love and kindness this week. You are loved, and you deserve to feel it. 

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Much love,

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