Compassion is taking action to alleviate another being’s struggle. This being can be a human, an animal, a plant, or some other living being. Most humans find it quite easy to care for and support others. However, when it comes to alleviating our own struggles and the stresses in our lives, we tend to be hard on ourselves.
Let’s say you are usually on time for your work meetings. This one time, you showed up 10 minutes late. You might have thoughts of how irresponsible you are, how you can never be on time for anything, and the thoughts go on and on about why you are 10 minutes late. If another colleague who is usually on time for their meetings was 10 minutes late; you would most likely give them the benefit of the doubt. End of story. Self-compassion helps us do the same for ourselves; being kind and caring towards self.
There are two aspects of self-compassion: tender and fierce. The tender aspect is validating for yourself how hard your struggle is right now. You can then take care of yourself by taking a walk or getting a cup of tea. You might also offer yourself comfort by reassuring yourself you are not alone in your struggle and that everything is going to be OK.
This is what you would do for a friend who was struggling. So this is where you might begin and continue your journey of compassion towards yourself. By continually answering the question “How do I treat myself with the same care, kindness, and compassion that I would give to a good friend who is also struggling?”.
The fierce aspect of self-compassion is taking action to protect, set boundaries, or advocate for yourself. Let’s say the meeting ended with more work on your plate than you would like. Instead of taking this for granted, you might work with your manager in finding ways to bring more balance to your workload.
“What’s essential is that like yin and yang, these two faces of self-compassion are balanced and integrated so that we can be whole. When both are present, it creates a caring force that can be used to transform ourselves and the world around us.” Kristin Neff