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Why Self-Compassion is Your Superpower

Melli O'Brien






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Why Self-Compassion is Your Superpower

Learn three simple ways to cultivate self-compassion to unhook from unhelpful thoughts that can distress and disempower us.

We'll have a voice in our head, a

voice that talks to us all day long

in the form of constant thoughts.

This voice raises doubts,

fears, and questions about the

way we're living our lives.

Sometimes the voice is really insightful.

It alerts us to something

helpful that we can do to achieve

our goals or solve problems.

But more often than not, this inner

voice is more like an inner critic.

It says things that are harsh,

mean, unkind, making us feel

unworthy, afraid, or unhappy.

And this voice can create immense

amounts of suffering when it calls us

names like idiot, loser or useless.

One of the things that's problematic

is that sometimes when life is at

its hardest, or we're overwhelmed

or stressed, our inner critic goes

into overdrive, bringing even more

suffering to an already difficult time.

I'd like to share a, a personal

experience with you to give

you an idea of what I mean.

But first I want to talk briefly about

the three emotional regulation systems

that we have, as this is really going

to help you to see how the inner critic

can get us into trouble when it gets

us caught up in stress and suffering.

So thanks to evolution, every

single one of us has three emotional

regulation systems that continue

to have a significant influence

over our thoughts and behaviors.

The first system is

called the threat system.

The threat system is designed

to protect you from harm.

It's our fight, flight or flee response.

And it's designed to keep

you out of harm's way.

Keep you away from threatened danger.

This system is often

attributed the color red.

We also have the drive system.

The drive system is a system that gets you

moving towards seeking food, sex, shelter.

It motivates you to pursue goals.

And this system is often given the

color blue or called the blue zone.

Then we have the soothing system.

The system of contentment,

rest and connection.

When this system is activated, you can

connect with the people around you.

You can play.

You can rest.

You can be at ease.

It helps you feel safe,

loved, and protected.

The soothing system is the green zone.

So keeping in mind, these three

emotional regulation systems,

here's a story I'd like to share.

Recently, I was asked to

do a really demanding job.

I had to do a lot of writing, a

lot of content creation, and I

was asked to do it really quickly.

Now I got halfway through this task,

but then I found the voice in my head

starting to get really critical, saying

really unhelpful and unkind things.

Like, you know, maybe you can't do this.

You're not a real writer.

You don't know what you're doing.

Who do you think you are trying this?

It really started to play on my

insecurities by saying things

like you're about to really put

yourself out there in a big way.

You could embarrass yourself.

People might hate your work.

And all of these thoughts

brought in self doubt.

I began to experience what

they call imposter syndrome.

I started to worry about my ability

to actually deliver on this really

important project, something

I was really passionate about.

I noticed that as these critical

thoughts became louder and louder,

as the anxiety rose up inside me,

my stress response kicked in and I

got tricked into that threat system.

I went into the red zone.

I felt anxious, overwhelmed, and these

feelings started to stifle my creativity.

And so I really started to find

it harder and harder to focus.

It's hard to focus properly

when you're in the red zone.

It wasn't designed for that.

The red zone is not designed

for that kind of focus.

Now, lucky me, I started to

notice what was happening.

I started to notice the impact that this

critical inner voice was having on me

and how it was making me feel powerless,

frustrated, upset, and overwhelmed as

I stared helplessly at my computer.

And, you know, I had to stop and walk

away from my desk one day, because I found

myself plagued by these inner thoughts.

So what I did was this, when I noticed

the impact of those critical thoughts, I

paused, I placed a hand over my heart and

I did a short practice of self-compassion.

I gently spoke words to myself in

a kind and soothing mental voice,

acknowledging what was happening for me.

So the first thing I said to myself

mentally was, this is a moment of stress.

We all get stressed sometimes.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

And I repeated these phrases.

May I be kind to myself.

May I be gentle to myself.

I kept repeating these kind phrases

for about one to two minutes, as I, you

know, gently kept my hand on my heart.

And after a couple of minutes,

I felt my whole nervous system

start to feel soothed and relaxed.

I reminded myself that it's quite

normal to feel a little bit anxious

about putting yourself out there.

The self-compassion practice had untangled

me from the thoughts in my head that

were critical, harsh, and mean, and

brought me back to my center, back

to presence, back to calm and clarity

and the connection of the green zone.

When we talk to ourselves mentally

in a harsh, mean and critical way,

it is actually perceived as a threat

and it pushes us into the red zone.

Think about it.

If somebody was walking behind you saying

really nasty things and calling you names

and putting you down, it's not nice.

It feels threatening.

It creates tension and stress.

Unfortunately, for so many of us,

when things are already hard, that

inner critic revs up and tries to

whip us into shape or push us around.

And that's what happened to me.

Self-compassion, however, engages our

soothing system, which is why I did

that short practice to bring me back

into my green zone and out of distress.

Do you remember when you were young?

And if you hurt yourself or you were

really frightened in the red zone, how

instinctive it was for your parents or

carers to wrap their arms around you,

giving you soft cuddles or a soothing

touch, maybe, maybe like a pat on the back

and started to say gentle, compassionate

words like, it's okay, sweetheart.

I'm here.

Everything's going to be okay.

And do you remember how soothing

and centering it was for you?

How your whole nervous system

settled back into the green zone?

Well, we can give the same

thing to ourselves when

we're in any distress at all.

You can use that kind inner voice

to soften the inner critic so

that it loses power over you.

You can use self-compassion

in any difficult time at all.

Once I gave myself self-compassion

and I was in the green zone instead.

Again, in that calm, clear space.

And I regained my focus,

my passion and my presence.

In the end, I got everything

that I needed to get done done,

and I enjoyed the process.

Many people believe that if they don't

crack the whip on themselves with harsh

self-talk, they won't be motivated

to make changes and achieve goals.

But the research shows just the opposite.

Self-limiting or self-destructive

thought processes like that really

critical inner voice, they really

diminish our motivation and initiative,

whereas self-compassion and kindness

have been shown to increase them.

When we learn to be kinder to ourselves,

we also become more resilient to

the challenges of life and stress.

We become more productive and we're more

able to overcome bad habits and addictions

and have more fulfilling relationships.

In the end, so what self-compassion

really gives us is just a more

joyful, more easeful way to live.

So here are three, really simple ways that

you can start to develop self-compassion

and be kind to yourself from today on.

The first thing is to

soften that inner voice.

A way that we speak to ourselves in our

own heads can often have a very harsh and

cold tone to it, especially if something's

gone wrong or we made a mistake.

See if you can start practicing self-talk

that sounds warm, friendly and kind.

Let your inner voice take on the

tone of a supportive friend or coach.

And if you catch yourself sounding harsh,

see if you can just take a pause and

change that tone of the inner voice back

to a warm and kind and supportive voice.

So, you can say kind and encouraging

things to yourself, like, you know, good

on you for giving that a go honey, or,

that was a very kind honest, good thing

you did there, or, Hey, it's all okay.

Just soothing things.

And if, if you don't find terms

of endearment like honey useful,

then of course just drop them.

Just to find your own way with

this practice, especially when

you're having a hard time.

Try to use kindness in your

inner tone, as if the same kind

of time that you would use.

If you were speaking to a

loved one who was hurting.

Yeah, saying really soothing

and kind things to yourself.

The second thing that you can do

to cultivate self-compassion is

to do things that nourish you.

Like what are the things

that nourish you in life?

You know, what are the things

that recharge your batteries,

relax or rejuvenate you?

The things that light you up,

bring you joy, feed the soul?

You know, some examples of nourishing

things are things like yoga, going

for a walk, having a rest, a cup of

tea, and gardening, or your hobbies

spending a little bit of time with

a pet or a loved one, taking a nap.

You know, so often, we get caught up

in the headlong rush of daily life.

And we don't allow ourselves

the time to just enjoy ourselves

and restore our energy.

So what can you do today?

You know, this week, this

month to nourish yourself?

It could be the simplest thing, like

just taking a 15 minute break at work,

going for a walk in the afternoon, or

participating in a hobby that you love.

The invitation here is instead of always

pushing yourself, can you also make time

to care for yourself and enjoy yourself.

And yes, you deserve it.


The third thing is to be self

compassionate, especially in

moments of pain and distress.

When the demands of our lives stretch

us to our limits, when we feel grief,

heartbreak, or we're overcome with

anxiety, depression, or hopelessness,

often, what we do is we struggle and

fight against ourselves and our feeling.

And it's like drowning in quicksand.

We only, when we struggle,

we only add more suffering

to an already difficult time.

And this is when we need kindness

towards ourselves the most.

Here's the kinder way through.

It's called a self-compassion break.

This is what I did for myself

on the day that I spoke of.

And it can be done in three or

four simple steps that take under a

minute, once you're familiar with it.

When you have a situation in your life

that's really challenging, painful,

or causing you distress, just take a

pause for a moment, tune into your body.

And the first thing you want to do

is see if you can locate and feel

into wherever you feel the physical

sensations of the emotion in your body.

And here's the practice and

you can try this right now.

Step one is to bring mindful

acceptance to what's happening.

So by doing this, we can begin

to let go of hardening against or

struggling with what's happening.

So step one is to say to yourself,

mentally or out loud, if you want

to, this is a moment of suffering.

Or if it's stress, you're feeling,

this is a moment of stress.

Or if it's sadness, you're feeling,

you'd say this is a moment of sadness.

So you're acknowledging what's

happening for you in a kind

and really loving mental tone.

The second step is about realizing

our common humanity and really

normalizing the experience of

having a difficult time or difficult

feelings, because we all do sometimes.

It's part of being human.

So there's no need for us to feel so

alone in our experience of distress.

So the second part of this practice

is to say to yourself, again,

mentally or out loud, if you want

to, this suffering is a part of life.

I'm not alone in this.

The third step is offering

yourself compassion and soothing.

This is a difficult moment,

so we want to give kindness to

ourselves in the midst of our pain.

So for this step, you want to

place a hand over your heart as

a gesture of self-compassion,

if that feels okay for you.

And then you say to yourself mentally

the third phrase, which is, may I

be kind to myself in this moment.

The fourth step is an optional extra step.

So here you can ask yourself,

what do I need right now to

express kindness to myself.

So it could be, the answer might

be something as simple as, I can

just, I need to slow down and

breathe a little bit right now.

Or, you know, what I really need is to

take a warm bath, to call a friend, to

go for a walk in nature, to meditate.

Who knows what your answer will be

in that time, but the step, this

step is more than anything about

inviting yourself to see if there's

any nourishing actions that you could

take to bring yourself that kindness.

Self-compassion really is a

superpower because it helps us to

unhook from the unhelpful thoughts.

It can make us distressed

or disempower us.

Self-compassion can bring us back to

the calm and clarity of mindfulness

and transform pain into peace.

Over time, the benefits of

self-compassion increase and it can

bring deep healing to old wounds and

transform your inner world into a

warm, soothing, and compassionate home.

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