When someone is having a tough time and struggling with difficult emotions, we give them compassion. Yet we find it so hard to do the same for ourselves. By practising self-compassion we drop shame and criticism and give ourselves a break.
In this episode we look at:
Podcast episode 18 The key to dealing with difficult emotions
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Welcome to episode 18. Today I want to talk about self-compassion. I talked about how self-care helps us overthinkers in episode 11 and there’s a lot to the topic so I want to dive in a little more by talking about an aspect of self-care which is self-compassion, what it is, how it helps us, and how to begin giving yourself a little more compassion.
We demonstrate compassion all the time, to our family, our friends, our workmates, to strangers on the street, in the supermarket, we feel compassion for the people we see on the news. So if compassion is something we give to other people, what does it have to do with ourselves?
Well, quite a lot actually. Self-compassion is where you treat yourself with the same compassion you treat other people. It isn’t about making out we’re better than we are or showing off or being self-obsessed. It’s about dropping the judgement of ourselves altogether. It’s involves self-acceptance so instead of comparing yourself to others or to your own ideal, instead of shaming and beating yourself up about anything and everything, you accept yourself as you are. That doesn’t mean you settle or give up or make no effort to develop and grow as a person. It simply means you treat yourself with the same compassion you give to those around you.
Whenever you hear talk of self-compassion the name Kristin Neff will pop up because she is the number one leading authority on the subject. In fact, I mentioned her in episode 17 about getting back to sleep when you wake up worrying. She’s written a brilliant book called Self-Compassion, funnily enough, and I’ll link to it in the show notes.
Kristin has found there are three components of self-compassion, they are self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. So, I’ll explain a bit more about each one.
To practice self-compassion we need to be kind to ourselves, stop judging and shaming and giving that mean little criticising voice inside our heads free reign to say the cruellest things to ourselves. This self-kindness involves understanding ourselves, soothing and calming our troubled minds and comforting ourselves, in words and actions.
The second component is common humanity. Compassion means ‘to suffer with’ so to practice self-compassion we recognise that we’re not alone in our suffering and our struggle. When you’re full of self-loathing or you’re struggling with something you can think that you’re the only one who feels this way or who is going through this experience. Widening your scope to realise that there are other human beings all around who have similar feelings and experiences helps you to feel less alone.
And the third component of self-compassion is mindfulness. It’s seeing things as they are, not as we imagine them to be, and recognising when we’re suffering. So it’s being aware of what we’re feeling when we criticise our appearance or actions, or our response to someone else’s words or behaviour. You need to notice when you’re suffering to be able to give yourself compassion.
So why do we need to practice self-compassion, what’s the point and will it do us any good? Well, we face challenges and tough times throughout our lives and these bring with them a host of difficult emotions that can impact every area of our lives. Self-compassion helps us to deal with these difficult emotions, makes us more resilient and, ultimately, results in us feeling happier. Sounds good, right? If our emotions are sending us ping-ponging through the difficult feelings spectrum from embarrassed to sad to ashamed to nervous to angry and so on, that gets in the way of us living our lives as we truly want to and showing up as the best version of ourselves. Being kind to ourselves when we recognise the difficult emotions we’re feeling, and understanding that we’re not alone in our struggle, helps us to deal better with what we’re going through.
There are times throughout a day where we can experience uncomfortable feelings for all kinds of reasons, they may seem trivial (or is that your self-talk shaming you for caring about something it judges unworthy of your care?) but if they provoke suffering within you than self-compassion is needed. So you could feel shame because a mum at the school gate looks you up and down and then whispers to her friend. Or embarrassed because your boss dismisses your suggestion in a meeting. Or nervous before driving a new route. Or upset that your dog is ill. Or angry that you can’t figure out something. Or disappointed that your date has cancelled. Or frustrated that you overthink things so much.
These emotions are all real, right? They hurt, they make us feel bad and telling ourselves to stop feeling them, that we’re not allowed to feel them, just piles misery on to the suffering. If it was your best mate feeling this pain you wouldn’t dismiss it and tell her to pull herself together, would you? You’d be compassionate. Without hesitating you’d empathise, comfort and reassure her. That’s it, that’s compassion. Treating yourself in the same way is self-compassion.
So, hopefully you’ve got a clearer idea now on what self-compassion is and why it’s absolutely worth giving yourself the care and compassion you give to other people. So how do you do it, how do you practice self-compassion?
Let’s go back to Kristin Neff’s three components of self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. First of all you need to be aware of what’s going on with you, what difficult feeling you’re experiencing and acknowledge it. You might recognise it instantly or you might notice you feel wobbly or uncomfortable or just a bit icky so identify what’s causing that discomfort.
Then, drop the critical little voice that’s making you feel bad for feeling bad and instead tell yourself that yep, this sucks, you feel whatever it is that you’re feeling and you don’t like it and you don’t want to feel it but right now this is what you’re dealing with. So you’re acknowledging your difficult feelings rather than pushing them away or criticising yourself for having them.
Now look outside of yourself and recognise that you’re not the only person who has ever felt embarrassed or ashamed or angry, other people have felt and are probably feeling right now, just as you do, you’re not alone in how you feel.
And then comfort yourself, just as you would if you were your best friend. Say soothing words or wrap your arms around your body and give yourself a hug. I know this might sound silly but it works, honestly, I’ve done it and it really does give you comfort. If you’re doing this alone where no-one can see you what does it matter if it makes you feel better?!
So you could say to yourself “Ugh, this is horrible, I hate feeling like this and it’s really hard to be this embarrassed. I know I’m not the only one who feels like this, everyone has times when they feel embarrassed. It’s okay that I have this feeling and I’m going to give myself a break about it.” And give yourself a hug, make a cup of tea, take a few deep breaths or take a walk around the block. Whatever will comfort you.
That’s the basics of what self-compassion is, why it’s essential for your own wellbeing to be compassionate with yourself and how you can give yourself compassion the next time you’re struggling. There are many more ways you can practice self-compassion and apply it to different areas of life but I wanted to give you this introduction so you can start being kinder and more compassionate to yourself today.
As always, I want to hear what you take away from this episode and how you get on trying out my suggestions so do email me at [email protected]
One of the benefits of meditating regularly is that you can more easily recognise when your thoughts are running away with you and what’s causing your difficult emotions because you learn to notice rather than get caught up in them. Learning to make a little space between you and your thoughts means your thoughts don’t rule you. You learn to notice when you’re mind is going off into a spiral and so then you can do something about it to reduce your overthinking.
Meditation doesn’t need to take a big chunk of your time, it’s not about making your mind go blank and you don’t even have to sit still to do it. Just three minutes a day makes a difference and there are lots of ways to make it work for you and fit into your busy life.
I’ve poured my years of experience and learning into creating an online beginner’s course in meditation for overthinkers. I lead you step-by-step into starting to meditate, I debunk all the myths and misconceptions around it, I share all the ways you can benefit as well as the knock-on positive effect to your loved ones, we work out a way to meditate that works for you, and we hear from real-life meditators who share how they fit meditation in around their busy lives juggling family and work. Plus you get ten guided meditations from three to ten minutes long as well as a resource library. Go to gabrielletreanor.com/podcast for a link in the show notes or find Exhale in the courses section of my website. You’ll also find all the other podcast episodes and show notes on my site too.
Thanks for joining me for Pressing Pause, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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