SELF COMPASSION ANYONE?

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One way and another we have all been in ‘survival mode’ since March 2020. Don’t know about you it’s hard to know whether to take the ‘soldier on’ approach or allow things to let up a bit. Here Jodi Garrod talks about learning to be Self Compassionate and all that it’s given her.

  • I grew up in a small town in the North East of England, not far from Middlesbrough.

  •  I learnt to be tough. Tough on myself, tough on others, tough enough to push me at everything. And be the best at everything.

  • Life was a competition, and I judged everyone else. Harshly. By my own tough standards.

  •  I internalised – as many of us do – the idea that if I was hard enough on myself it would somehow make me work harder, do better, become my ‘best self.’

  •  It was a HARDER, FASTER, STRONGER kind of mentality.

  • Yet I felt permanently dissatisfied, restless, unhappy. Nothing I did was ever enough. 

  •  With that came a strong inner critic.  A self-critical inner voice that was relentlessly telling me:

  • “You’re shit, you’re an idiot, you’re rubbish, you’re ugly….” 

  • (I could go on. You can probably add your own here…).

  • You’re not good enough, basically. Nothing you do is ever good enough.

  • I don’t remember the exact point when that shifted.  It was more of a drip drip thing. But I know it came from having a gentle and compassionate way of being modelled to me by those who truly embodied it.

  • I didn’t read it in a book, not at first.

  • In my early 20s, I was training to be a Birthworker; first a Doula, then a Midwife. I found myself amongst some incredible women who oozed unconditional care.

  • They invited me into a deeper connection with my heart and a sense of my own inner goodness.  A sense that I was worthy. Good enough. Beautiful as I was; without needing to change anything (except the way I was relating to myself…).

  • Gradually, I discovered some incredible mindfulness teachers, who showed me some specific practices to support me to be more gentle and kind towards myself.

  • Although this might sound like a cliche: It completely transformed my life.

  •  I could harp on endlessly about all of the different threads of this. But, one very simple thing that I wish I’d learnt sooner, (and I now wish to share with every other woman out there), is the simple teachings of Self-Compassion.

  •  Self-compassion isn’t about just being a ‘nice’ or ‘good’ person.

  • It’s basically about going easy on yourself, not beating yourself up.  Giving yourself less of a hard time. Or in my case: being less tough on myself.

  •  Some people say it’s about treating yourself like you would a dear friend.’ But I find – especially if you’re a mum –  you can most easily tap into a sense of what this quality of care really feels like, when you think about the way you would respond to a child when they were sad, upset, worried, scared.

  • Think about the gentle quality of understanding and tenderness you’d give to your kids when they struggle. Self-compassion is about turning that same quality of loving care towards ourselves.  Especially in times of difficulty.

  • The great thing about Self-Compassion practices is that there are direct, simple, steps to follow. So, everyone can learn to be more self-compassionate.  

  • EVERYONE can do this. But it takes a bit of practice.

  •   There are 3 basic elements to Self-Compassion:

  •    1) Self Kindness

  •    2) Common Humanity

  •   3) Mindfulness

  • *Self-kindness* is about being intentionally less harsh and critical with ourselves, and more gentle and accepting of our shortcomings.

  • When we make a mistake when we’re having a difficult time when we mess up. We not only go easy on ourselves, but we actively soothe ourselves – with a kind, caring, friendly, responsive.

  • What we normally do when things go wrong is to go straight into problem-solving mode. We want to try and fix things, take control of the situation. Make it alright again.

  • But Self-kindness steps in before we DO anything, and helps us to simply recognise:

  •    “This is a difficult moment.” “This is hard for me right now.”       “This feels tough” Or “Ow, This hurts.”

  • When we recognise and make friends with our suffering in this way, we can bring a comforting response to the physical or emotional difficulty we are experiencing BEFORE we attempt to fix things.

  • We can use reassuring words that help us to feel a sense that our struggle is recognised and cared for. Like “Oh, you poor love, that hurts.” Or simply “I care about this suffering.” 

  •   I personally use “I love you and accept you, just as you are.”   Or just “It’s OK Jodi, it’s going to be OK.”

  • We can also use physical touch in a reassuring, comforting way: placing a gentle hand on our bodies where the emotional or physical pain hurts. Or placing a hand softly on your heart to feel that you are really ‘with yourself’ during this challenging time.  

  • Self-Compassion Guru Kristen Neff writes: “Physical touch lets our bodies know that we care, so that our minds can follow.”

  • Next comes the *Common Humanity* bit: I like to summarise this one as: “It’s right that things go wrong.”

  • Things aren’t meant to always go the way we want them to. We aren’t meant to get it right all of the time. Nobody can, nobody will. We are all fallible human beings; sometimes we make mistakes.

  •  Social media and mass marketing techniques feed us the illusion that there are some people out there who are just naturally happy, who cruise through life without any bumps in the road. Because, well, some people just got it good.

  • But that’s an illusion. Everybody will suffer hardship at some point in their lives. Nobody is exempt from life’s difficulties: We all lose things and people we love. We all encounter sorrows, grief, emotional and physical challenges. All. Of. Us.

  • These hardships aren’t what separates us from others, they are what connect us.

  • Life is unpredictable and imperfect, and sometimes throws us curve balls.

  •  We are all fallible human beings; we all make mistakes.

  •  We can’t change that. We can’t control that. But we can change our response to life’s inevitable struggles.

  •  If I leave my credit card in the supermarket for instance:

  • Is my first reaction: “you’re such an idiot, why did you do that? Why aren’t you more on the ball? You’re ALWAYS losing stuff.”

  • (btw, any self-talk that includes the word ALWAYS, is a strong sign that it comes straight from your inner critic. Nobody is always anything, that’s impossible.)

  •   Or is my response: “Oh, how annoying! I left my Credit Card at the Co-op! I was juggling a lot today, I’ve had a lot on my mind – it’s no wonder something slipped. I’ll have to go back there and get it later – but hey, I need to get petrol anyway.” (ok, maybe the last bit is a little too optimistic…)

  • If you’ve had an all-round shitter of a day on top of the CreditCard situation, then you might also add an extra dose of Self-Kindness to the mix, e.g. by putting your hand on your heart and taking a few slow, deep, breaths there.

  • Feeling that this is a tough day, and that you’re doing your best. Perhaps offering a few reassuring words of soothing self-talk: “I’m doing the best I can, it’s going to be ok.” “I’m proud of you, you’re doing the best you can.” Or whatever works for you. 

  • Different words will work for different people. So play around with what feels most nourishing and supportive for you, in different circumstances.

  • Talking to yourself in this way might feel a bit strange or unfamiliar at first. But so what? Do it anyway. If it’s going to make you feel better about yourself  – and your life – then why wouldn’t you do it?

  • The part of you that’s saying “that’s too soppy” or soft, or goey, or whatever. Is that the same voice that’s saying, “I can’t be kind to myself”? Maybe that comes from the same conditioning that makes us believe we need to be tough on ourselves, to make things happen.

  •    *Mindfulness* is a lot about training how we respond.  We can’t control the circumstances of our lives, but we can train our response to them.

  •     A moment of mindfulness is a moment where we become more aware of how we are reacting in a given situation. And over time, with practice, we can use our mindful attention to change our response.

  • We start to make active choices, about the way we want to live our lives. Instead of just acting in habitual, conditioned ways.  

  • Instead of just running on ‘Auto-pilot,’ and doing what we’ve always done, we can create space around a situation. We can have more choice about how we respond.

  • It’s really incredible. Because modern Neuroscience has shown us that over time, these subtle shifts can actually change the structure of our brain. We can create new pathways, new habits, new ways of being.

  • We have the power to rewire our own brains. To change the settings: to be more compassionate, less judgemental. More loving.

  •  Little by little, we change our response. And little by little we start to live a life where we are actively hurting ourselves less, and actively caring for ourselves more.

  • As we often say with mindfulness: It’s simple, but it’s not easy.  It requires some practice because it goes against our basic conditioning.

  • But I believe everyone can do it, and everyone can benefit from it.   

  • Last week I poured boiling hot water over my hand. I woke up feeling cold in the early hours of the morning and decided to go downstairs and get a hot water bottle.

  • In my half-asleep haze, I missed the HWB and started to pour boiling hot water directly onto my hand.

  •   Of course, the first thing I did was to put my hand under the cold water tap. But before I did anything else. I very naturally said to myself (in my own head).

  • “This really hurts. This is a really painful moment. It’s going be ok, Jode. I love you and you’re going to be ok.”

  •  I didn’t say “what a total tit you are. Why on earth did you do that? Why weren’t you paying attention…” And I definitely didn’t say: “You should be more careful in the future.” (how has that ever helped anyone?!)

  •    I cried. Actually. Not so much at my pain. But at the relief of my own caring response.

  •   That’s the deal: once we’ve practised this often enough, Self-compassion actually becomes our instinctual response.

  •    And it’s moments like these, now, where I think:  WOW. Jodi, you’ve done it. You’re not only kind and compassionate to yourself, but you don’t even have to think about it any more.

  •  That’s the beauty of mindfulness teachings and practices:

  • At some point, you’re practising it. And then one day, you just become it.

  •     Love,  Jodi x

  • **’But Why Do We Have Feelings?’  and ‘But Why Don’t I Feel Happy All The Time?’ are some of the many tricky questions I tackle in my debut bookBUT WHY? which is available to preorder now. **

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