Recently, when I suggested to a client that she give herself compassion because of the difficult challenges she was going through, she told me she was doing that. Then she explained that in spite of making a couple of mistakes, she wasn’t being hard on herself, getting down on herself, or calling herself names like “Stupid” or “Idiot.”
I was very glad to hear that. Many years ago, I used to talk that way to myself, but am glad to say I no longer do. Talking that way to ourselves is far too common, especially for those of us who had critical parents. If you do it, I strongly encourage you to stop.
In her book, How To Be Sick, Toni Bernhard writes about how she learned to stop doing that from a teacher at a spiritual retreat. The teacher described realizing that she would never talk that way to someone she cared about, and Toni saw that she wouldn’t even talk that way to a stranger. So they stopped!
Not talking harshly or critically to yourself is a good thing. Talking to yourself in an encouraging way is a good thing. Acknowledging your accomplishments and your special qualities and gifts to yourself is also a good thing to do.
But none of those are the same as giving yourself compassion. And I have found that giving ourselves compassion is one of the best, most effective things we can do to heal the emotional wounds we get when others say and do things that hurt us or upsetting or traumatic things happen to us.
At first, my client had a hard time giving herself compassion. Many people do. She’s a very productive person, with a demanding job, and she had a strong desire to “do something.” But giving yourself–or anyone else—compassion doesn’t require you to physically do anything.
Thinking about the way she was with her pets and the way they were with her was helpful, and since she knows a lot about the energy of the heart, my suggestion of giving herself “gentle heart energy” was very helpful.
It’s important for us to be good to ourselves and it is important that we not be critical of ourselves. But to heal our emotional wounds, what works much better than either of those is to give ourselves a great deal of self compassion. I hope this helps you give yourself a lot more.