Today’s post is an act of self-compassion, as it will be the final one in the series. When I first got the idea for this, I was going to call it the “Summer of Self-Compassion” because I thought it would be that small, that brief. But then so many of the women I asked to participate said “yes” that I decided to continue until I ran out. When the end got near, I briefly considered asking more women, because you all were appreciating and enjoying it so much, because we all were learning so much, getting so much out of it.
And yet, when I got still and quiet, asked myself what I really wanted, what to do next, the clear response was to finish, to create the ebook and move on to the next project. So today, I have spent the morning reading back through all the posts, soaking in all the wisdom there, feeling so full of love and gratitude for these women. My responses to the same set of questions I asked them are an act of gratitude, an offering, a contemplation of what I’ve learned. With self-compassion, I am honoring this experience and letting it go.
another picture from my photo shoot with Andrea Scher, which was a practice of self-compassion
1. What does self-compassion mean, what is it? How would you describe or define it?
Self-compassion is to “suffer with” myself, to stay with an attitude of non-judgment and gentleness, to nurture and soothe myself. It’s the ability to be present no matter what arises, to not abandon myself. It means honoring my experience and truth: how I feel, what I need, my body, my desires, my longing, my hungers, my values, all I have and all that I wish for.
I define it as the continual willingness to soften to your own experience and allow it to be as it is. ~Susan Piver
It’s simply being kind to myself – meeting myself, whatever my emotional, physical or psychological state, with loving kindness. As simple, and difficult, as that! ~Marianne Elliott
2. How did you learn self-compassion? Did you have a teacher, a guide, a path, a resource, a book, a moment of clarity or specific experience?
From this series, from the brilliant and kind women who agreed to participate — I learned from them before this series and through it and expect to continue being a curious student of how they do it.
I learned from books, workshops, classes, retreats, podcasts, and videos by Tara Brach, Brene’ Brown, Pema Chödrön, Geneen Roth, and Anne Lamott.
I learned through practice, by staying open and being with what is true, being present for my experience as I meditate and move through yoga poses, as I show up and write day after day no matter what, as I have lived with and loved and even let go of my dogs.
From being in relationship with others, seeing how we generate suffering from a place of confusion and hurt, and also how we can love and heal each other, the power of kindness and acceptance and presence.
3. How do you practice self-compassion, what does that experience look like for you?
In a bigger sense, self-compassion practice for me is centered in awareness, mindfulness. This means showing up, being present, and staying open. It is about cultivating a sense of curiosity. For example, if someone says something, and I feel hurt or angry, I am curious about that, try to discover what triggered me and why, and what I need to be able to experience it and let it go, be with it without generating even more suffering.
At a more basic level, it means checking in with myself, seeing what I might need or want. For example, am I hungry? If so, what do I want to eat? It means checking in with my needs and desires, and responding when action is warranted. For example, if my feet are cold, I put on socks. That might sound dumb to someone who naturally responds that way, but for someone like me, someone who spent so many years denying myself, smashing myself to bits, that sort of care, awareness of a need that is met with a quick and appropriate response is something new, something I’m learning and have to practice.
I practice self-compassion moment by moment. It lies in how I receive myself and what I’m experiencing. I practice awareness of self-judgement and my inner dialogue. I practice softening, allowing, embracing. ~Rachel Cole
It’s a practice of softening towards myself, of connecting to my own heartfelt desire for my own well-being, and finding a source of gentle, sweet kindness towards myself – even when I’ve made a mistake. ~Marianne Elliott
More and more, I try to love the crap out of myself. ~Judy Clement Wall
4. What do you still need to learn, to know, to understand? What is missing from your practice of self-compassion, what do you still struggle with?
I still struggle with trusting myself, having faith that what I want is allowed, okay, acceptable. I struggle with thinking it’s more important to please others, meet their expectations than to care for, to satisfy myself. I still need to learn to trust that I am worthy, that I don’t have to wait for permission have the life I want or earn the right to be here. I need to understand that I am loved, lovable no matter what. I struggle with self-criticism, being way too hard on myself. I still need to learn better strategies for self-soothing when I’m feeling overwhelmed, tender and raw.
I can get wildly impatient, judgmental and despairing when I feel like I’m not blooming fast enough, damn it! There is so much that I want to do, see, create, experience that I can be relentless in my self-demands – and I get mad when I can’t keep up! I can burn my energy out, fuelling myself with adrenalin and caffeine and fast, nutritionless food thinking that, at least for a time, it will help me get farther faster. Nope … I see this struggle as my journey to grow my self-compassion so that I can hold with love both my desires and my limitations. ~Jamie Ridler
I am very hard on myself about what it means to be successful in this world. And too often I don’t make self-care a priority. I know that as I continue to relax (as opposed to “trying”), self-compassion will naturally manifest. ~Susan Piver
I am filled with so much love and gratitude, for the women who took part in this series, for my kind and gentle readers, for the infinite number of “do-overs” and fresh starts available to all of us.
What’s next: Self-Compassion, the ebook. And for Saturday’s on the blog? I am thinking of doing a Life Rehab Resources series, where I share various resources that have been useful to me, give you a sense of what they are and how they helped and how you can access them yourself.
P.S. Barb Markway, psychologist and author of the blog The Self-Compassion Project, as well as one of the wise women I interviewed for Self-Compassion Saturday, put together a post for Psychology Today using quotes from the series complete with links to each individual post, 25 Women Writers Share Their Best Self-Compassion Tips. It makes me so happy that more people will now have access to the rich wisdom available in this collection.
P.S.S. If you didn’t see the first post in this series, you might want to read Self-Compassion Saturday: The Beginning. Or make your way through all the posts tagged Self-Compassion Saturday.