As another year draws to a close, I’m called to reflect on what I’m grateful for. The autumn and winter seasons naturally evoke feelings of contentment and camaraderie as many of us gather with loved ones to celebrate the joys, growth, and milestones of months past.
No matter how your year has unfolded, take a moment to consider the reasons you have to say thank you. They could be as simple as having fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink or as significant as mending an estranged relationship, seeing your child graduate from college, or embarking on a new business venture.
Over the next few weeks, I invite you to join me in noting what you’re thankful for each day. If you already have an established gratitude practice, encourage a friend to follow suit. Check back often as I tally up the bundle of blessings this month has up her sleeve, and as the end of the year approaches, be present to the small graces that surround you.
Self-compassion gets a lot of buzz, and for good reason. Pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, the term refers to showing yourself the same care and kindness you’d show a close friend. If you find you’re often critical of your faults, have difficulty separating yourself from your negative thoughts when they arise, or feel like you’re alone in your struggles, practicing self-compassion can help.
In this post we’ll explore:
What self-compassion is (and what it’s not)
How self-compassion compares to self-esteem
The benefits of self-compassion
Tips for practicing self-compassion in everyday life
I’ll also share some handy online tools and exercises so you can practice what you’ve learned. So get cozy, grab a cup of tea, and let’s unpack these one by one!
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion arrived on the scene over a decade ago and has been growing in popularity and application ever since to be integrated with practices like mindfulness and meditation. To understand self-compassion, it’s helpful to think about compassion in general. The word compassion translates to “suffer with”, meaning that when you see someone in pain, your heart and mind are inclined to respond with sensitivity, caring, and warmth.
As the winter holidays approach, our days seem to move at an increasingly frenetic pace. Shopping lists are made, decorations are put out, online orders are placed, tables are set, and our lists are checked twice, hoping that we haven’t forgotten anything amidst the end-of-year hustle and bustle.
Repetition is a hallmark of holiday traditions. In honoring them year after year, we cherish their inception and fondly recall the mark they’ve made on our lives. The anticipation of what’s to come is what makes them both enjoyable and sacred. New traditions are formed as variations of the old and there’s a comfort in bringing together the familiar with the unestablished.
Life imparts many lessons. Some are loud and urgent while others are soft and more gradual in their unfolding. All are important. How can we learn to tune into the messages they carry?
One way is by bringing our best selves to whatever we’re doing. This is especially important when we’re faced with a task we don’t like. Whether it’s walking the dog in the rain, washing a sink full of dishes, making a difficult phone call, or showing up to a job that saps us of our energy, we can do it with the same spirit we reserve for more enjoyable pursuits.
Of course this is easier said than done, but there’s much to be gained from recognizing that while the conditions of our life aren’t always favorable, we can condition ourselves to approach them with openness and curiosity.
It’s not unusual to be hard on ourselves when things aren’t going our way. We might blame ourselves, second-guess our actions, or wonder what we did wrong to make things turn out the way they did. Unfortunately, doing so not only raises our stress level, but limits our ability to see the big picture.