Life Lab Series – December
I’m riffing on self-compassion for this month’s Life Lab post. What’s the Life Lab? Glad you asked!
Life Lab is my powerful personal growth framework to help you more fully realize your true self - mind, body, heart and spirit. If you’re ready to discover who you are, what you want, and how to create it, click here to get started!
Back to self-compassion. This may seem like an odd topic considering it’s the season of giving, but that’s the point. Self-compassion is the practice of giving…to yourself.
A lot of us are great at giving kindness, acceptance and understanding to others but think its self-indulgent, “soft,” and ineffective when we offer it to ourselves. The thinking goes “if I’m not hard on myself, I won’t get anything done.”
The research (and there’s a lot of it) says otherwise and shows that trading self-criticism for self-kindness increases motivation and resilience, helps you cope with difficult life changes, promotes healthier choices, and makes you more emotionally available to others.
So what is self compassion?
Kristin Neff, PhD, the University of Texas at Austin researcher who pioneered the concept, defines self compassion as having three components:
2. Common humanity (more on this in a future post)
3. Mindfulness (for more on mindfulness, check out this post)
According to Neff, these elements work together to create a self-compassionate mindset defined by sensitivity to your own experience, awareness that you’re not alone and taking action to soothe and comfort yourself.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? I know firsthand that it is. This shit works.
Try it out for yourself – Take a Self Compassion Break
Place your hand (or both hands) over your heart and take a moment to feel the warmth.
Take 3-4 deeps breaths in and out.
Now say to yourself, out loud or silently, the following words in order: • "I’m having a hard time right now." • "Everyone feels this way sometimes." • "May I accept myself as I am." • "May I give myself the same compassion I would give to a good friend."
After doing this practice, what do you notice? Take a few minutes to journal about your experience.
Self compassion and your Life Lab
Now that you’ve had a small taste of self-compassion, how can it serve you in realizing your vision and living as your authentic self?
A core aspect of Life Lab is learning how to work with your thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and energy so they help you create what you want and what you deserve. You probably know what it’s like when your mind and body – and especially your emotions – feel like they’re working against you. They call the shots – how good you feel (or don’t feel), what you say to yourself, and the choices you make to live the life you truly want. Or sadly and all too commonly, to not.
Regular self compassion practice counters this self-sabotaging pattern, helping you better manage yourself. It’s the “inside job” process that builds your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual fitness so you have the strength to fully own your story and your life.
In the words of Lauryn Hill “how you gonna win when you ain’t right within?” Self compassion is the within before the win.
Experimenting with self compassion
As always in Life Lab, I invite you to experiment with this practice to see what works and what doesn’t so you can create YOUR self compassion practice. Life Lab is all about you, designing your optimal growth toolkit, taking what works and leaving the rest.
Here are some simple “safe to fail” experiments to learn how self-compassion feels in your everyday life.
Take 1-2 minutes throughout your day to pause, relax your body and breathe. No agenda, no need to “meditate,” just settle for a moment.
Treat yourself to a massage
Watch a stand-up comedy special (there are tons on Netflix)…Whitney Cummings and Seth Meyers’ latest are my faves
Get together with a friend to play a game
Send a card to someone you love
Take a leisurely walk on the beach, in the woods, through the park
Take a warm bath or go to an infrared sauna
Write in your journal
Call a friend and let them know you’re having a hard time
An important note on practicing self-compassion…being gentle and kind with yourself may feel unfamiliar, strange and downright triggering. It can be surprisingly challenging to mindfully give your compassion. That’s perfectly normal. It will get easier with time so just keep going.
Want more support integrating self-compassion into your personal growth toolbox? I get it, and I’m here for you. Let’s talk!
As you face whatever’s challenging you right now on your personal growth journey, try pausing, taking a breath and offering yourself the same warmth, acceptance and comfort you’d offer someone you love.
Then notice, reflect, deepen your awareness, and forward your learning.