Day 2: Self-compassion

Unlocked in a Lockdown - Investigative Selfism

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. – Jack Kornfield

Let me begin in the way I prefer to do it: with a ridiculous story.

In the small town I’m spending my COVID days, there’s a street I hit every day on my sanity walks, as I gently call them. There are only private houses on that street and most of them have dogs. And there’s one house with a dog who would always run up to the fence and bark at me. Trying to keep my identity as someone who is liked by animals (“c’mon, I thought they were supposed to sense if someone’s kind!”), I would use my weird pet voice and try to chat that dog up.

There were a couple of days when I thought I had finally become friends with this dog: there was no barking, and I thought, that’s it, I had won this battle of friendship. Unfortunately, that was only because there has been another object more worthy of barking just behind me. Yes, it was a cat.

One day, perhaps a week later, I was passing the same house, and the dog ran up to me again. There was no barking. “Yes yes, I understand there must be a cat nearby…” I thought to myself. And I looked around. There was no-one. And no cat for sure. I looked at the dog who was now wagging his tail, giving me a friendly look.

This is when I thought to myself:

The dog has finally stopped barking.

I can rob the house now.

(nah, I actually stayed with that dog for some seconds, thanking him for his appreciation).

But what is the dog really if we take it as a metaphor?

And what does robbing the house mean?

The real question that came to my mind was this:

What do I have to befriend, accept, or, the opposite, consciously reject about myself to unlock a certain capability, a certain potential, if you will?

Befriend your uncertainty and start something new?

Befriend your sense of unworthiness and reject a suboptimal relationship?

Befriend your body so you can spend your worry on literally anything else?

Befriend the fact that you are, in fact, lovable, and embark on this life without constantly searching for the proof that you aren’t?

I believe self-compassion can be extremely powerful. And we need to up our self-compassion game NOW.

Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) warns us that our language becomes our reality.

The words we use to describe our experience become our experience.

If I describe something as horrible, for me, it is horrible. If I describe something as unfortunate, for me, it is unfortunate. If I describe something as ridiculous, for me, it is ridiculous.

You get the point, I’m sure.

So to be more compassionate with ourselves, we have to use compassionate language. There is a big difference between “I’m such a failure” and “Well, that didn’t go well. Let’s see what I can learn from it.” From “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to me!” and “Wow, OK, now this bad!”, and so on.

We all know that what we tell ourselves in our darker moments is something we would never ever tell our friends. If anything, when our friends are going into that negative self-talk we reject that narrative completely. We tell them that the story they’re telling themselves doesn’t have to be told in that way. There is a much more compassionate story there.

It’s really hard, but let’s remember to apply that to ourselves more. To catch ourselves going down the road of anger, shame, and self-pity. Remember, however kind we are to others, that compassion is incomplete if it doesn’t include us, too.

Exercise/Reflection

Think of a tough situation you’ve faced or are facing. If you were to talk to yourself as if you were talking to your friend, what would you tell yourself? How would you describe that situation, using what language? If you were to say it as a loving friend, what words of kindness would you use?

Resource of the Day

One, Tara Brach!

Tara, like Jack Kornfield, is a meditation teacher and an author, she holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and is an expert on self-compassion and self-acceptance practices. Her book, Radical Acceptance, is one calming read.

But I know not everyone has the time to drop everything – including other books we might be reading:) – and dive into it. What we can do, today, as part of this challenge, is to spend 10 minutes with Tara in her meditation. Her technique, RAIN – recognise, allow, investigate, nurture – is a quick four-step guided meditation practice that will inevitably leave you feeling kinder towards yourselves. Honestly, it’s tough to jump into meditation on our own, and professional guidance is not cheating. Let Tara be your knowledgeable and kind guide today.

A 9-min RAIN meditation (it’s great – please take those nine minutes, it won’t be a waste of your time).

A 17-min RAIN meditation (a beautiful one, too).

Two, Sonya Renee Taylor!

“When we liberate ourselves from the expectation that we must have all things figured out, we enter a sanctuary of empathy.”

This is what Sonya Renee Taylor, an educator, speaker, and author – among other things – says in her book, The Body is Not an Apology. In her interview with Brené Brown (and we’ll talk about Brené tomorrow!), Sonya talks about the need to reject the system that is based on lack and external validation of our worth. We have to move past mere self-acceptance. Self-acceptance is passive. We need something else.

“The ladder is not leaning against the system. The ladder is the system.”

How are self-love and self-compassion political? Sonya will tell you that, too.

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