Self-Compassion Snippets - Part One

Aug 25, 2022

Hey guys and welcome back to my blog.

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Those of you who follow me on social media will know that this month is Stress Awareness Month, so stress, anxiety and how to deal with it will be the focus of many of my regular posts throughout the month.

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One of the ways in which we often add to our own stress is with a lack of self-compassion…. It is so easy to allow Boris (the gremlin inside your head) to give you a hard time, which in turn hugely increases your stress and anxiety.

This first part to the self-compassion blog series is going to be a bit more technical than I will normally be - but when researching for this blog, I found so much fascinating information that I wanted to share it with you.

To understand self-compassion, we first need to define "compassion".

Kristen Neff defines compassion as:

“the recognition and clear seeing of suffering…feelings of kindness for people who are suffering, so that the desire to help – to ameliorate suffering – emerges… recognizing our shared human condition, flawed and fragile as it is” (Neff, 2011, p10)

Paul Gilbert defines compassion as:

“a basic kindness, with a deep awareness of the suffering of oneself and of other living things, coupled with the wish and effort to relieve it” (Gilbert, 2009, p. xiii)

These definitions emphasise four things:

  • Awareness of suffering
  • Normalising the experience of suffering
  • Kindness towards those who are suffering
  • A wish to alleviate suffering

Most of us find it easy to show compassion to others, but struggle to show it to ourselves.

Sound familiar???

Yeah - that's me - hand up in the air waving!!!

In order to practise self-compassion, we need to:

  • recognise that we are struggling,
  • realise that although it's hard, struggles and suffering are a normal part of life and everyone experiences them at some point. Struggling does not signify a major flaw in our character, and we are not alone!!
  • be kind to ourselves. How would we speak to our best friend or to a child who was struggling??? That is the type of kindness we need to direct towards ourselves. (This is the most important part of the process in my opinion)
  • work out ways to either relieve the struggles we are having or at least find better ways of coping with them

Easier said than done, right???

I know - it's not easy - and this is where practice comes in!!! It's also where working alongside a coach can help - coaching can guide you and hold you accountable, and teach you skills to live your best life. If you want to know more about how coaching can help you, schedule a call with me here and we can chat about how I can best help you.

It has been proven that self-compassion has amazing benefits for our health - both mentally and physically.

Studies have found that those who are more compassionate towards themselves tend to have less mental health problems like depression, anxiety and stress. This in turn gives them a better quality of life, more success in relationships and a greater sense of well-being.

One thing I discovered when researching this blog is that self-compassion is linked to the oxytocin hormone (otherwise known as the "love hormone", so it makes total sense that practising self-compassion should make us happier and more content.

I'm sure most of you have heard of the "fight or flight response". Well, it seems that self-compassion has a vital role in helping us balance our emotions, and Paul Gilbert has written extensively about the idea that our emotions are governed by three systems known as the threat, drive and soothe systems, with each playing an important role in regulating our emotions.

Let's look at that idea a bit more...

THREAT - Thankfully we no longer have to worry about being attacked by sabre-toothed tigers, so in most circumstances our threat response is triggered by non-physical danger - that's where WORRY, ANXIETY and NEGATIVE THINKING come in!

When we panic or get stressed our adrenaline soars and we may experience physical symptoms so severe that they become a "panic attack".

The threat system is not a bad thing. Remember, its purpose is to keep us safe from genuine threats (e.g., getting out of the way of a moving car).

However, many of our mental health problems relate to our threat system being over-active when there is no real danger.

DRIVE - In theory our Drive system should cause us no problems at all - without drive we would never even get up in the morning, so surely drive is a good thing!

Well, yes... it is - but the problems begin when our drive goes into "over-drive" as such.

In the fast-moving, competitive world that we live in, people often feel under enormous pressure to achieve (and then achieve some more!) SO STRESSFUL!!!

People may use stimulants such as caffeine as a crutch to help them cope with the over-drive pattern that they have allowed themselves to get into, and so the cycle continues adding more pressure as it goes.

This is where SOOTHE comes in...

The soothe system is completely different from both the DRIVE and the THREAT systems.

We activate this system when we take a break, when we practise self-care, and when we are feeling calm and content.

It is impossible to be in SOOTHE and DRIVE at the same time, and also impossible to be in SOOTHE and THREAT at the same time, so our SOOTHE system has a calming influence on both the threat and drive systems, helping to quieten them down when they are overactive.

One of the biggest ways in which we can engage the Soothe system is with SELF-COMPASSION - showing kindness to ourselves.

If you find that worrying is a huge issue for you, and one that keeps you from being able to show self-compassion, check out another awesome FREEBIE here - an exercise to help you deal with worrying

I was intending to make Self-Compassion a 2 part blog series, but I am finding so much great information that I want to unpack and share with you that it looks like it will be more like 3 or 4 posts.

To end today, I want to challenge you to analyse your own self-talk...

  • What do you tend to criticise yourself for?
  • What sort of things do you say to yourself, and in what tone?
  • When you criticise yourself, how does it make you feel?

I would love to hear your comments on what comes up for you - either by adding a comment to this blog, or by messaging me privately at [email protected]

If you haven't yet joined my Facebook Group, Goal-Driven Women Making Changes I would love for you to join and interact with our lovely members and get some great motivational and educational content.

For now...

Take care and keep smiling,


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