Self-Compassion As A Powerful Change Agent
The first client I saw after I finished my video on this topic said, I can’t go down the [self-compassion] rabbit hole- I’ll just turn into a self-pitying asshole.”
And that is where we will begin for the written portion of this week’s topic. Let’s start with defining the difference between self-pity, self-indulgence and self-compassion. Self-pity is aligned with sympathy, rather than empathy. Within self-pity and sympathy, there is a power differentiation. It’s as if you’re saying to yourself (or someone else), “Oh, you poor thing, I feel sorry for you.” This is disempowering and maintains the role of victimization and a powered down position. Self-indulgence is the aligned with entitlement. Sometimes people who really have been handed a shitty deck, or who have trauma, struggle with wanting to balance out the power and mistakenly believe that self-indulgence is the road to that. Their inner dialogue might sound something like “Well- this is totally unfair, I have been handed the shittiest cards and therefore, I am going to do whatever I want, fuck this. I deserve it and then slam four margaritas and sleep with their husband’s best friend.” It is important for us to maintain an understanding of both self-pity and self-indulgence as ways of coping with pain. We do not want to justify these behaviors, but understanding them as an attempt to balance the scales of justice and fairness or an attempt to regain some autonomy or sense of power.
Self-compassion on the other hand is an empowered stance. It is learning to work with the many different parts of ourselves- our wounded selves, our protectors, our armor that we use to protect our hearts, our martyry people-pleasing selves and our darker parts – our addictions and our bullying parts of ourselves. Learning how these different parts of ourselves have actually been adaptive and helpful at one time and then recognizing now how they are getting in our own way. Self-compassion is a stance of recognizing that many of the things that have happened to us are NOT our fault. Abuse, neglect and trauma are never okay AND we are the only ones that can take ownership of our stories and the paths that we walk. We are the only ones that can now heal and take an empowered stance for stepping into our power and our responsibility.
As I said in the video and in week one- the fancy term for this approach is dialectical thinking. The main dialectic for this week is I AM GOOD AND WHOLE JUST AS I AM AND I CAN AND WANT TO DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE. You’ll notice that these seem to be opposites. You may ask, “If I am good enough as I am, then why do I need to change in the future?” We tend to think that if we accept ourselves the way we are in the present moment, we are giving ourselves permission to stay the same. This may be true if we are slipping into self-pity and shame. We are afraid that if we offer ourselves kindness, we will turn into a puddle on the floor. We think it means we will stop having goals or wanting to improve. THIS IS NOT TRUE. We think we need to change and move and push all the time! However, when we do this, we are never good enough. Even when we reach a goal, we don’t take the time to be still and enjoy what we have accomplished. We think that shame-based motivation, beating ourselves up and basically being abusive towards ourselves is going to kick our asses into making the changes that we want to make. However, because we never hold space for feeling whole, celebrating victories and jumping into “good enough is pretty fucking good,” we get tired and we burn out the energy to make the changes sustainable. When we approach ourselves with self-compassion however, we plug into our own infinite source of love and energy it takes to make sustainable changes. We are able to change and grow from a place of self-love and radical acceptance that we are imperfect, we will always be imperfect just like the rest of the humans on this planet AND we are also whole and fabulous just as we are. The changes come from a place of flow, rather than forced striving- they come from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity.
Do I struggle with this? HELL YES! I have spent my whole life with something to prove. But- honeys- mama’s tired. I just can’t come from that place anymore. I can’t come from the place of striving and scarcity and fear anymore. It has to come from a place of good enough, abundance and bravery – and that feels like a badass move.