Thought for the week: Self compassion

self-compassion-heart

Samantha Burton, West Sussex Chaplain, treats us to an excerpt from a book she’s recently read: Honesty over Silence – It’s OK not to be OK by Patrick Regan and challenges us to remind ourselves that we are only human…

Recently I’ve been reading (in a kind of dipping in and out of way) a book called Honesty over Silence – It’s OK not to be OK by Patrick Regan. It’s a very wholesome, heart wrenching but healing book written from a Christian person’s perspective and their struggles in life, particularly with mental health. It’s main point is about being open, being honest about where we’re at, what we’re struggling with, and the importance of the safe spaces and people with whom we can do that. But an even more important point struck me in something I read most recently, and that was how we also need to be able to be open and honest with ourselves. We read and hear a lot about self-care, and this often covers things like not overworking, having time to ourselves (me-time), making sure we don’t write long, unmanageable lists of things we think need to do, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, maybe even meditating or spending time in our own spiritual space. But self-compassion is something I’ve not heard talked about much. We know about compassion – caring for others, sharing love with others, but we rarely talk about caring for and having love for ourselves. How many of us are great at bigging up our friends and colleagues, but beat ourselves up over the tiniest perceived mistake, or supposed shortcoming in our lives, in our days? I can raise my hand for that one.

We set ourselves some unattainable level of perfection that just does not exist, and rarely praise ourselves for doing things that, if others had done, we would be congratulating them, speaking positively, encouraging them. “You’ve done your best” or “You did a great job” turns into “I could have done more” or “I should have done better” when it’s us we’re talking to.

But this is important. We need to learn to talk to ourselves in a more caring, loving way, not out of some perceived self-importance or arrogance, but out of kindness to ourselves. We all know the phrase “you can’t give from an empty cup”, often used as a means to remind ourselves to give ourselves rest, but this is the same when it comes to being able to give kindness and compassion to others, we do better when we have received it ourselves, from ourselves.

I’ll end with a quotation from the book, it says everything I want to say. It’s a bit long, but worth the read. The whole book is actually, whether you’re a Christian or not.

As lovely and important as it is to hear kind words from other people, we need to be the ones who ultimately let ourselves off the hook – that’s what self-compassion is about. We need to tell the loud inner critic to be quiet, and listen to the quieter voice of compassion. The next time you feel you’ve messed up, remind yourself that no one is perfect. The only thing we can do is our best, and making a mistake doesn’t make us a complete failure – it makes us human. When

we’re having a down day, rather than telling ourselves to cheer up, let’s acknowledge some of the things that are making life hard, and remind ourselves that it is perfectly normal to feel sad, angry, despondent or confused. Let’s give ourselves a break from the constant high standards. We don’t have to be available to others 24/7. We don’t have to feel bad for not looking at our work emails during our evenings and weekends. We don’t have to say yes to absolutely everything we’re asked to do. Sometimes we need to put self-care higher up the agenda, knowing that it is good sense, not selfishness, which encourages us to look after ourselves. A good friend once sent me a message… “you do what you can, when you can, however you can, with whatever you’ve got. And if you can’t, you can’t. You rest until you can again. You give yourself kindness so your pockets are full and you can reach in and pull out a fistful to offer the folks you meet along the way…

Self-compassion isn’t the easy way out, it’s giving ourselves the kindness we need so that we are able to be kind to others”. (Regan P. 2018, p112-113)

I hope you find time to be kind to yourself this week. Samantha

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