Words of Wellness: Give Yourself a Break Today

October 26, 2021 - Culture of Caring - Claudia Finkelstein

Have you given any thought to self-compassion lately? Maybe it’s time. Why is self-compassion relevant? We have all been buffeted by so many changes. Many completely unexpected and resulting in multiple rapid course corrections. Most resulting in needing to shift the way we do things. For we humans, this number and rate of changes and the duration of uncertainty is an enormous stressor. It’s normal to not be “at our best” during this time. And it’s not helpful to heap self-judgment onto the pile of existing difficulties. I’ll give you an example.

The person in front of me in a long line up for gas at Costco was not following “the rules.” He was taking too long, talking on his phone, arranging items in his trunk, and delaying me from pumping my own gas. I became indignant, impatient, and full of judgment about “those oblivious people.” My adult daughter, in the car with me at the time said, “nice mindfulness mom.” I got caught at a “not at my best” moment. Becoming aware of this set off the self-judgment cascade.

“What kind of wellness person am I if I can’t even handle a line up at the gas pump? What kind of idiot gets so worked up about something so trivial? What’s next, road rage?” These judgments added to and were greater than any suffering caused by a five minute wait at the pump. The harsh inner critic was definitely harder to tolerate than any delay. Moments like these are where self-compassion helps.

What if we gave ourselves the grace, compassion and forgiveness that we are repeatedly urged to extend to others? Imagine extending a beneficial mindset to ourselves. This is at the root of the practice of self-compassion.  

Those of us who opt for a life of helping others and wind up in institutions of higher learning often have well developed inner critics. The inner critic, in addition to judging us harshly, may fear that self-compassion is too “self” oriented. In fact, Dr. Neff (a pioneer in self-compassion) lays out five common myths about self-compassion:

  • It is really self-pity
  • It is selfish or self-indulgent
  • It is disguised narcissistic self-esteem
  • It is a form of weakness
  • It leads to complacency

In addition to her website, her video offers more information.

Turns out the gas lineup presented an opportunity to practice self-compassion which is comprised of three major elements:

  • Mindful awareness of the situation – Wow! Look at these thoughts and emotions;
  • A sense of shared humanity – Yup, it’s normal for humans to feel frustrated and angry at times, and finally;
  • Self-kindness – Oops, it’s ok I did not cause harm and will try to do better next time.

In addition to multiple changes, being repeatedly told we should be more self-aware, engage in more self-care, give more grace to our colleagues is exhausting. Please do not take the talks I give or newsletters that I send as directives to do better, be better, change, or improve yourself. In short, more being told what to do.  Rather, take or leave what serves you and consider treating yourself with the kindness and compassion you would extend to a friend.

Read more Words of Wellness from the Culture of Caring.