Self-compassion - where does the word take you to when you think about it? Does it leave you puzzled, or do you notice that it makes you think about pure relaxation and a day off from being responsible in the world? Does it mean watching Netflix, having another drink? How do we learn to love ourselves? How can we grow self-compassion?
One of the main foundations of self-compassion is, I believe, about beginning to be able to meet yourself where you really are right now.
"I will go to where all the ladders start,
In the rag and bone shop of the heart." (W.B. Yeats)
It is coming to a realisation that at times, you have lost understanding of how you are made, and at that moment you decide to give over and let the bridge down to yourself. You allow yourself to no longer be the hero of your story, but to notice and be with knowing that you are actually afraid to take another step.
Self-compassion is the antithesis of 'fighting against' ourselves, the way we are shaped, the way we have been worn and weathered in the world. Practicing self-compassion means embracing the wisdom that has grown from the history of our lives,from all of our difficulties... and knowing deep down that this wisdom is the best gift we can give - to ourselves and others.
A first step in growing self-compassion is to allow yourself time to be alone. In those moments of quiet, maybe going for a walk or just sitting, instead of ruminating in ways you may have always done, trying instead to just be with the bodily feeling of where all those familiar stories live in your body. You might want to put your hand on the place where that heaviness or anxiety lies. If this feels impossible, that is ok too....
Self-compassion is not about manufactured positivity. It cannot be forced. The wonderful thing about a reluctance to 'be with' your pain is actually that you know how difficult that can be. And that in itself can be a gift you can give to yourself - acknowledging that reluctance in itself is self-compassion.
Thinking about self-compassion can often direct you straight to a sense of how you might not have been taken care of as you should have been. And so a part of the journey in learning how to 'do' self-compassion is actually about meeting that story - and allowing yourself to deeply be with that knowing of how it should have been. From there, something new in you can grow.
The journey towards self-compassion also takes place in counselling. It is something we can grow together, one small step at a time.