Skip to content

How Practicing Self-Compassion Can Lead To Enlightenment

Polly Campbell
November 12, 2014
Photo by Stocksy
November 12, 2014

Self-compassion allows you to meet life with an open-heartedness, and a tolerance that allows you to fully enjoy your successes and better manage the mistakes. It doesn't eliminate the pain, or change the reality of the experience, but it helps you move through it easier.

Here's how self-compassion works …

Say you missed a work deadline. That's a pretty serious offense in my business. Not only did you not plan your time well but you kept others waiting and held up the project. You feel embarrassed and disappointed and all that is heavy to carry around. But don't smack yourself upside the head; be proactive and patient with yourself.

Take a moment to look at what went wrong. Perhaps you overcommitted. Acknowledge your error. Note what you can do to keep it from happening again, and then accept your humanity. Heck, we all blow it once in a while.

Not only does this process feel better, it frees you up to do better. When we start judging ourselves harshly, we get caught up in the bad feelings and have a hard time accurately identifying what went wrong. We're apt to repeat our mistakes. Self-compassion allows you to take care of the situation and your own emotional needs without crumbling under the pressure and pain of it all.

"This way, you are able to take more responsibility for past mistakes and at the same time be less distressed about them," Neff says, "because you know it's okay to be imperfect and you don't have all these expectations of yourself to be otherwise."

This breeds self-reliance. You become less dependent on your husband or partner or mother, or the others in your life to boost your Ego and take care of your emotional needs when things go haywire. You are also more confident that you can cope with future setbacks, so you are willing to saddle up and try again.

Self-compassionate people tend to be "productive people who accomplish their goals more often and behave more responsibly," according to research by psychology professor and researcher Mark Leary.

To ramp up your own reserves of self-compassion then, you could channel Stuart Smalley and repeat, "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And doggone it, people like me." Or you could use the tips below …

3 Quick Tips For Self-Compassion:

1. Notice self-talk.

Stop and write down verbatim what those inner voices are saying. Often we're unconscious to what we say to ourselves, yet the words and sentiment can be damaging. To break this cycle of self-sabotage have a heart-to-heart with those inner voices and get clear on what you're saying to yourself.

2. Cultivate kindness.

We're good at doing this for others. We fill in for a friend when she can't make the meeting, and we are quick to encourage others. Now give a bit back to yourself. Each day do three things consciously to nurture your body and soul.

3. Respond to every single negative emotion with compassion.

You're not going to turn into some slacker if you lighten up a bit. Imagine what you would say to a friend who blows it, then say it to yourself.

Instead of "That was a dumb suggestion I made at the management meeting," go with something a little less bitchy and a bit more benevolent like, "Oh well, honey, yes, I'm talking to you; I know you were working hard to come up with a good solution to that problem. We all have moments where we say less-than-perfect things. Don't worry about it. Something better is bound to come when you have a little more time to think."

Oh, and one more thing, don't slam yourself for not being self-compassionate enough. Seriously. I know how you work — I do it, too. Self-compassion is a skill to be learned. With practice, you'll get better at it.

This post is excerpted from Polly Campbell's most recent book Imperfect Spirituality: Extraordinary Enlightenment for Ordinary People published by Viva Editions Copyright © 2012.