I start using cruel language to cut myself down. And I say things that, if I said them to another person, they’d probably punch me in the face.
But then I remember, having compassion for myself is how I bounce back from failure and struggle and hopelessness. It’s one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience in my emotional arsenal.
And contrary to popular conditioning, directing compassion inwardly doesn’t undermine my motivation to push myself to do better. It’s not narcissistic and selfish and indulgent. And it doesn’t mean I’m not trying hard enough or letting myself off the hook.
Compassion is simply the safe choice to see myself clearly. To give my inner critic some slack. To believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful or ugly it may be.
Neff’s pivotal research on the practice of compassion found it to be critical for understanding the myriad causes and conditions that lead us to act as we do. It’s how we gain perspective on ourselves, she says.
Compassion, after all, is wise and sees through the illusion that we have total control over our actions. And it’s one of the few things in life that acknowledges the truth that we’re limited, imperfect beings who are impacted by things over which we have no control, like our genes, early family history, culture and life circumstances.
Next time you start beating yourself up for beating yourself up in the vain hope that somehow it will help you stop beating yourself up, turn compassion inwardly.
Accept that you share the human condition of imperfection.
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