Self-Compassion and Kindness: How to Gift it to Yourself and Humanity

When you think of the words “self-compassion” and, “kindness”, what definitions pop up into your head?

I challenge you to really sit into that question. Maybe it sounds easy at first. But dig deep. Self-compassion and kindness are awe-inspiring concepts. They are paired together like a spinning kaleidoscope creating colorfully nuanced prisms of positivity.

Did you think of LOVE?

Or perhaps DOING caring acts for another? Did you feel empathy or sympathy? Or maybe an intention to DO a good deed or BE a good person? All lovely concepts.

Next, your action steps: How do you apply these concepts to yourself? Does self-compassion usually blip on your radar? Do you ponder being kind to yourself? Where does self-acceptance live within you?

After soulful reflection, this idea graced by awareness: Self-compassion is your north star, your touch stone of life. It’s the most most important relationship you have. Your relationship with yourself.

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Recently, a coaching client asked me an interesting question. We’d been discussing his huge inner critic, that too big part of him who routinely puts himself down and reminds him he is unworthy.  “Judy, what is self-compassion? Doesn’t that seem selfish? To me self-love means I am not being humble. I’d feel it’s hoighty if I said I loved myself.”

I got his message loud and clear. I could easily identify with it.

My wonderful, very humble Mom raised me to feel that way. She admonished, “Judy, don’t ever get too big for your britches. Always be kind to others.” Great advice, but I over-learned that one. I was happily kind to others, but I was way too hard on myself. It took me a few years with several wise coaches to tattoo self-love to my psyche. I wholeheartedly thank them for encouraging me to own self-compassion as the purposeful way I now travel through life.

I appreciate Sharon Salzberg’s definition of  of kindness: ” Kindness is compassion in action. It is a way of taking the vital human emotions of empathy or sympathy and channeling those emotions into a real-life confrontation with ruthlessness, abandonment, thoughtlessness, loneliness – all the myriad ways, every single day, we find ourselves suffering or witnessing suffering in others.”

Kindness begets kindness.

We mirror it to each other, as we do with empathy, sympathy and compassion. Kindness is an unlimited resource, and it doesn’t cost you a cent. How wonderful!

Imagine how much love you can give away, once you know how to embrace self-love and kindness. I hope you feel proud of yourself as your self-compassion learning evolves. It is truly liberating and a great GPS for success and happiness as you travel though life jumping your hurdles.

To answer my client’s question, I explained being kind to yourself and practicing self-compassion engender greater meaning and well-being. You feel happier and more mindfully attuned to your whole self. These life gifts project to others. You are a beautifully braided gold and silver cord connecting to all humanity.

Then he asked me, “How will I know if I am truly self-compassionate?”

I explained self-compassion is a lovely tapestry interwoven with:

  1. Being supportive and grateful to yourself. Authentically accepting who you are. Even embracing your inner critic with love.
  2. Having empathy and understanding for all humans. You accept your mistakes and imperfections. You grow from them.
  3. Mindfully being aware and clear about your suffering. You allow your pain. You are human. You identify with the suffering of others, too.
  4. Rallying your resilience. You notice your inner strengths. You choose to suffer less. You know you are capable to harness your values to reach your full potential.
  5. Forgiving yourself. This helps you more readily forgive others, too. It lightens your emotional load. It frees up more energy to love.

Here is what self-compassion is NOT:

  1. Self-pity, poor me, or “I’m a victim” or “Life is not fair!”
  2. Over-indulgence. “Life is tough. I deserve this!” You are not living a healthy, meaningfully  purposeful life.
  3. Making excuses and not accepting responsibility. “Well, it was her fault!” Rationalizing you deserve your mal-adaptive behaviors/feelings.

Self-compassion means acceptance that life is messy.

You screw up. You get angry with yourself and beat yourself up. Yes, but you learn to accept yourself, warts and all. You acknowledge responsibility for your behaviors and negative attitudes. You notice yourself and accept you need to dust off your values. You need to get real and get clarity. To ask yourself if you are accomplishing your goals using your strong-suit values. Maybe you need to forgive yourself for your mistakes and smile at yourself in the mirror. You are human!  A wise client told me when he used to whine and be intro-punitive after he made a mistake, his dad would retort,  “Get off the cross, son. Someone else needed the wood!” To this day it reminds him to look for the good and let go of all that does not serve him.

Back to my client’s inquiry. I loved helping him learn new self-accepting concepts. Empowering him with strategies to discover a symbolic new shirt he had in his closet but never took out to wear. On that shirt was embroidered, “Worthy”. We discussed kindness and self-compassion. He added a sprinkle of newly discovered joy and acceptance for who he was. He learned to believe this interplay led him to more happiness, optimism, and meaning. It also stretched his gratitude muscle. It opened his eyes to look for what was going well and right in his life, not to focus on what was wrong. Big concepts in positive psychology coaching and wellness. Soon, he smiled and told me with sudden clarity, “I feel lighter. I get it now.” I love when a client tells me that!

How about you? Do you need to be less self-critical?

Need a boost to your self-compassion? Kindly heck out these important ways to ratchet up your self-compassion via DELETING these tell-tale inner critic characteristics:

  1. Fear of failure. Everyone fails!
  2. Negative self-statements such as, “I am not good enough.”
  3. Perfectionism. “I need to be right or do this the right way.”
  4. Obsessing over what you are telling yourself you did wrong.
  5. Thinking there is only one way to do things. Your way. Black and white thinking.

To be a winner in learning to love yourself, add these illuminating positivity solutions to eliminate negative thoughts/feelings or ways of being/doing:

  1. Notice your negative self talk, the story YOU are creating to reprimand yourself. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Totally true?” Or am I embellishing the bad?
  2. Be aware of your tone as you put yourself down and your inner critic runs amok. Remember your inner critic is always with you. That’s normal. You may often need to mindfully reduce it down to a more manageable size. Pretend it is like those filmy plastic toys you put in your microwave to shrink to see the true affect.
  3. Talk to your critical inner voice. Kindly tell it, “I know you may think you are helping me face reality, but the truth is, I know you are disappointed in me. You are causing me to feel badly about myself and to feel grief and doubt myself. I need to put a muzzle on you!”
  4. Re-frame: Tell yourself. “I am human. I messed up, but kicking myself in the butt will not make me feel better. It won’t undo anything. I now focus on my strengths and values. I savor what is RIGHT about me. I LET GO of negativity. I move forward and thrive!
  5. Create a mantra. “I accept myself.” Or, “I am creative, resourceful, whole and way more than enough!” Whatever works for you. Maybe even saying the word, “LOVE” will float your self-love boat.

Self-compassion and being kind to your naturally flawed self treats you to another super attribute, self-esteem. Self-worth means you feel good about who you are and how you show up in life. You accept your foibles, forgive yourself for your failures and move on. For an added boost, know that powering up your self-compassion revs up your resilience. You bounce back from tough times when life has dealt you a bad hand. Mindfully being aware you are human, warts and all, creates great freedom feelings and more overall health, happiness, and even longevity.

Life is a kindly ironic. The more you are open and willing to accept yourself, the greater your ability to harness your values and change! How cool is that?

Want a way to kindly remind yourself you love yourself?

Try this: Put your hand on your heart. Pause. Smile. Tell yourself you are OK. Love yourself, especially when your inner critic tries to kick you to the curb!

Another technique.
If no one is around when you need some consolation, do the “butterfly hug”. Here’s how. Close your eyes. Take your right hand and put it up on your left shoulder. Put your left hand on your right shoulder. Scrunch up your shoulders and hug yourself. You can eve rock back and forth. Keep smiling. Remind yourself you are good. Even great!  You love yourself and are grateful you are alive and a good person. The more you love wonderful YOU, the more you can radiate your gifts, talents and loving-kindness into the word. That rocks!

Treat yourself as if you were your best friend.

Meditate. Journal. Exercise to relieve stress. Do random acts of kindness. Remember, kindness is contagious. Surround yourself with compassionate folks.

If you want to learn more about self-compassion and kindness, you will enjoy this video. You might also check out books and meditations by Kristin Neff and Sharon Salzberg.

Still need some help shoring up your learning self-love?

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Give me a call or flash me an email. I’m a positive psychology coach who loves to watch you soar!

  • Judy Cullins

    I just read Judy’s article “Self-Compassion and Kindness: How to Gift it to Yourself and Humanity.” Wow! It packs a wollup! Judy teaches this and more in her book on Cuba, which I was lucky to be her book coach on.
    She’s the kind of client I love (we coaches call them the ideal client.) She makes me remember to forgive myself with new mistakes I’m making after a few years absent with other obligations. and to remember my successes with graduating over 85 clients to finish their books and more.

  • Vanda Do Nascimento

    Very good! Thank You again, Judy! Very good! I use to do a meditation with the clients, but this work is very complete! To use and use again! :)

  • Many thanks dear Vanda!

  • You are a dear, Judy Cullins! So glad this resonated with you. Thanks for your kind words and your enduring friendship!