A Mindfulness Practice for Self-Compassion
Self compassion. Something that seems so simple, yet so complex. Simple, in that we know it’s an antidote to suffering. Complex in that learning how to practice self-compassion can be challenging, confusing, and even triggering if it rubs up against some of our core wounded beliefs.
I recently developed this helpful, simple, yet powerful practice, and find it to be useful for practicing self-compassion.
I call this the 3 N’s of self-compassion.
Name it. Normalize it. Nurture it.
Name what’s there. What are you struggling with? What is your critic critiquing you for? What are you being hard on yourself for? Start by putting a name on your experience to simplify the process and get clear. Maybe it’s shame, maybe it’s vulnerability, maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s self-doubt. Whatever it is, take a moment to get curious about it and name your experience. Try to get beyond the context and really tune into the process. Rather than “I got a bad review at work” perhaps it is “I am ashamed of myself”. What’s under the details and at the root of the discomfort?
Guess what. I guarantee that whatever you name, you are not the only person on the planet experiencing it. Normalizing our experience, and reminding ourselves that it’s not all that unique, can help take some of the air out of it. Sometimes we get lost in the suffering of our ego. “Why me. No one else knows what this is like. I’m all alone. Why can’t I get it together. I should be better. I shouldn’t feel this way.” None of this is an accurate assessment of your situation, I promise.
So normalize it. Can you get in tune with your oldest wisest self, and inquire if your wisest self has any feedback on your “unique” situation? Perhaps you can hear a voice that reminds you, everyone feels this way. Or maybe that voice reminds you that your process is normal, maybe even textbook. It could be that the voice says “you are not alone in this, lots of people are feeling this way”. Just listen and inquire how your experience may be a normal, human thing.
If this step is challenging, you may consider what you would say to a friend or a loved one. Would you normalize their experience if it were them? What would you tell them or let them know to be true that you aren’t offering to yourself?
After naming it and normalizing it, get curious about what the process needs. How can you be with the experience, step into the experience, care for and nurture the experience? It’s okay if you aren’t sure what is needed, but allow yourself to get curious, get quiet, and listen deeply to the inner layers of your being.
Sometimes, I nurture it by finding movement or breath. Other times, I recognize the experience needs connection, whether that’s affection from my husband, snuggles with my fur babies, or a call with a friend. There are other times I feel drawn to dive into books, connecting with wise mentors and guides. Sometimes, I just need to sit still and meditate. There’s no right or wrong here. Be with it, and stay curious.
These are three easy steps, to turn towards self-compassion in the moment. Once you’ve practiced each, notice what’s different. What’s changed in your mind, body, and heart? Do you notice more ease? Did something loosen or unwind? Does your heart space feel more open or relaxed? Just notice and savor the shifts, however big or small. If something distressing came up, try to just observe it and apply the 3 N’s to what was triggered.
These are times in which we could all use, and need, oodles more self-compassion. Self-compassion benefits us individually and collectively. For a heart full of self-compassion is an antidote in a dark and wounded world.