A Conversation with Myself: Practicing Self-Compassion
“Compassion isn’t some kind of self-improvement project or ideal that we’re trying to live up to. Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at.”
A couple of years ago, Dr. Sara McPhee Lafkas gave a life-changing workshop at our annual Exponent II retreat on having self-compassion for ourselves as Mormon women. This workshop was based on the work of Dr. Kristen Neff, and self-compassion is “with self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” Until that workshop, I hadn’t realized how cruelly I was talking to myself.
I still work on having self-compassion, and I wanted to share the dialogue in my head when I was successful in being kind to myself because the voices in my head have the best of intentions, and being kind to myself allows me to listen, evaluate all those thoughts, and decide what is best for me.
Me at 10:00 am one morning: I feel like my body needs a nap.
Voice #1: You are so lazy! It’s 10 am on a Monday morning. You haven’t done anything to deserve to take a nap.
Voice #2: You want to sleep?! Your depression is back! You will never get well! Why do you keep trying?! This is hopeless!!!!
Self-compassionate Em (SCE): Ok, we’re going to slow down a bit. Why might you feel tired?
Me: Well, I did wake up early to run 5 miles, and I haven’t done either of those for months. And, then, I was feeling so good and productive I set up like 6 appointments and a few social visits for the week, and I can’t remember the last time I did that.
Self-compassionate Em: Well, maybe you are really tired. What else could you do instead of a nap to see if you’re tired?
Me: Well, I guess I should focus on my breath and see what would help my body.
SCE: Good thinking! Let’s try that!
Now, how do you feel?
Me: You know, I am still tired. I think I want to rest.
SCE: Well, let’s do that then. It’s not that you deserve this nap. We’re just going to try and listen to your body and see what helps. If a nap doesn’t help, we’ll figure that out when you wake up.
When I first wrote about this experience, I called those voices “demons,” but I realized that wasn’t being kind to a part of myself. And, I found this quote helpful.
“Most of our suffering comes from resisting what is already here, particularly our feelings. All any feeling wants is to be welcomed, touched, allowed. It wants attention. It wants kindness. If you treated your feelings with as much love as you treated your dog or your cat or your child, you’d feel as if you were living in heaven every day of your sweet life.”
Have you been kind to yourself today? What does that look like for you?