Dr. Kristen Neff, a researcher and professor at the University of Texas studies how we cultivate self-compassion. She identifies three essential components necessary for this transformative process. They are . . .
(1) Self-kindness. This is not the same as indulgence or excess. It is rather about how we speak to ourselves and how we respond to our own needs. It is about being tender, warm, and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. It is to speak to ourselves with gentle honesty. It is the opposite of self-criticism (guilt) and self-condemnation (shame). It is to speak to ourselves with loving words – a soothing balm of comfort and support.
(2) Common humanity. This is the realization that, though we all have our own unique story, our own path unlike anyone else, we also all share suffering and feelings of inadequacy. No one is exempt. No one. When we realize this, we discover that we do not have to isolate ourselves in suffering, but rather we can reach out for support without shame or embarrassment to those who have the capacity to extend compassion and kindness. We can allow ourselves to receive from others, and we can relax in our flawed magnificence as human beings.
(3) Mindfulness. This is the capacity to observe and experience our emotions without suppression or exaggeration. We no longer ignore our pain; nor do we over-identify with it. We allow pain to inform us about what we need and what needs to change.
Compassion is powerful because as we transform inside – becoming more compassionate to ourselves – letting go of self-blaming and self-shaming, reaching out when we are in pain, and allowing our truth to be what it is, without minimization or drama – we offer to the world a different way of being that is magnetic and contagious. Each choice of self-compassion, extended to ourselves over and over again, has a cumulative effect, creating a string of pearls. We become more and more powerful in our vulnerability, because we become less afraid and more connected.
We re-mind ourselves and others that we’re all in this together – imperfectly together.