Essays Feelings / Emotions — 02 August 2016

Marc explores self-compassion in order to overcome his self-criticism and judgements.

For years I have been looking deep inside to encounter my habits and hang-ups that mostly came from my upbringing (more or less similar to other readers of Osho News). Some of them I was able to encounter, recognise as such, say hello and sometimes say goodbye to.

However, some habits that I would have liked to say goodbye to remained in my system, such as self-criticism. As I was brought up in a Calvinistic society, I know the possible habits and hang-ups that can come from those roots. I looked at them and worked on them. But still, sometimes I get sick of my own critical super-ego. There is always a lot of compassion for others, but somehow compassion for myself is sometimes missing. I needed a new compass.

Self compassion

Research indicates that self-compassionate individuals experience greater psychological health than those who lack self-compassion. For example, self-compassion is positively associated with life satisfaction, wisdom, happiness, optimism, curiosity, learning goals, social connectedness, personal responsibility, and emotional resilience. At the same time, it is associated with a lower tendency for self-criticism, depression, anxiety, thought suppression and perfectionism.

The 3 elements of self-compassion

Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.

Common Humanity vs. Isolation
Frustration at not having things exactly as we want is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive sense of isolation – as if “I” were the only person suffering or making mistakes. All humans suffer, however. The very definition of being “human” means that one is mortal, vulnerable and imperfect. Therefore, self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.

Mindfulness vs. Over-identification
Self-compassion also requires taking a balanced approach to our negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. This equilibrated stance stems from the process of relating personal experiences to those of others who are also suffering, thus putting our own situation into a larger perspective. It also stems from the willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time. At the same time, mindfulness requires that we not be “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings, so that we are caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

So, whenever I feel my self-criticism becomes too big to ignore, I take a deep breath: breathe in… breathe out. Embrace the feeling of pain inside; you are not perfect, it is OK.

Be a little bit compassionate with yourself.

Thanks to Dr. Kristin Neffselfcompassion.org

MarcMarc is a regular contributor

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