A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.

Christopher Germer

On Grey’s Anatomy, a few of the surgeons have a pre-op routine. They stand with their legs apart. Hands on hips. Head tilted back. Eyes gazing upwards. It’s the superhero stance that they believe builds confidence.

We all have our superpowers, those important abilities that help us succeed.  High-achievers often list creativity, persistence, attention to detail, or empathy as their superpower.  Let’s add self-compassion.

Self-compassion is an incredible superpower to battle self-judgment, create calm and embrace our imperfections.

We are so often speaking to and treating ourselves in a way we would NEVER speak to or treat someone else.  Its as if there are two sets of standards – one for ourselves and one for everyone else. Self-compassion is treating yourself like someone you care about, with support, encouragement, and warmth.

Self-compassion may sound like it will get in the way.  Here are three truths:

  • Self-compassion is not complacency.  Its possible for you to practice self-compassion and other awesome self-care and strive for excellence at the same time. They can coexist.
  • Self-compassion is not “whatever I do or say is absolutely okay.”  
  • Self-compassion is not getting stuck in feeling sad or anger.  Feelings aren’t suppressed or exaggerated. They are noticed and attended to.  

Dr. Kristin Neff’s book Self Compassion provides a blueprint for how we put self-compassion into practice. Here’s a look at what self-compassion is.

Mindfulness
Name the feeling you’re having and just notice it. It’s not good or bad. It just is.   For instance, “I’m feeling disappointed with myself because I was running late to the meeting again.”   We’re naming it. Not exaggerating it or over-identifying with it.

Self Kindness
When you’re kind to yourself, you stop the self judgement and comfort yourself.  You recognize our own suffering. Talk to yourself as you would your best friend if she were in pain- “this is hard.”  Say it out loud if you can. Its reassuring to hear your own voice. You can imagine speaking to your child if you’re a parent or yourself as a young child.  Hold your own hand, giving yourself a hug, put a hand or two hands on your heart.

Unlike self-criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, self-compassion asks, what’s good for you?

Kristin Neff

Shared Humanity
Compassion literally means “to suffer with.”  When you’re having a hard time or you’ve made a mistake remind yourself that we are all struggling with feelings of inadequacy and disappointment. You are not alone in that.  Instead of the self-criticism for running late, try: “Everyone runs late sometimes. It’s only human.” We are all in this together.

Dr. Neff recommends a self-compassion mantra or two. These are statements you can say to yourself when things get rough. Think of them as your superhero theme song.

“I’m having a really hard time right now.”
“Everyone feels this way sometimes.”
“I will try to be as compassionate as possible.”

Utilizing any one of the three parts of this blueprint is helpful when you’re in pain.  In short, when you make mistakes or have setbacks to let self-compassion be your superpower to bounce back a little faster and easier.