One of the many offerings I received as I have moved over the landscape of loss, after the sudden death of my husband, was a new level of tender compassion for myself. I was always very caring and compassionate when dealing with someone else’s suffering, but I wasn’t very patient with my own. I would often leapfrog over it to help others, not wanting to turn toward my own pain.
I think women have a natural capacity to extend love, empathy, patience and understanding to others, but we are far harder on ourselves. And we are often so out of connection with our own embodied experiences that we don’t even realize that we aren’t being kind or gentle with ourselves. We don’t miss it because we don’t cultivate it.
Psychologist Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself powerfully presents the evidence that people who are compassionate toward their failings and imperfections experience greater well-being than those who always judge themselves. Of course that makes logical sense but we need to practice this in order for it to happen. I consider Self-Compassion to be one of the core capacities of a Mysterial Woman – a simple and yet powerful way to cultivate a healthy Inner Mother.
Self-Compassion: To be compassionate with your own faults, struggles and personal failings. You are able to extend kindness and nurturing to yourself, recognize your own humanity and are able to witness your negative thoughts and feelings as they are without suppressing them or believing them as truth. Extending compassion to yourself in the moment when things are difficult helps you to self-soothe – as if a healthy mother were comforting her young daughter.
When you are triggered into reactivity – anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration or wyou are just having a tough time for any reason – take a moment to lovingly hold your hands over your heart. Allow their comfortaing presence to soothe and soften you. Then say to yourself (our loud if possible):
- (Your name), this is a moment of suffering.
- This is hard right now.
- Suffering and struggle are a part of life.
- May I hold myself with tenderness in this moment.
- May I be kind to myself in this moment
Then take a deep healing breath of Self-Compassion.