“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life” – Christopher Germer
The other night, my husband was away on business, our newly renovated (and by no means finished) house was a disastrous mess, my kids were melting down over what felt like every little thing, and I had a moment where I felt my whole body fill with anxiety, and….I cracked. I admit it. I big-time, no-holds-barred, fully and completely, cracked.
I sat on the floor, looked around, and with noise and chaos enveloping my body, I placed my cloudy head in my hands and I just cried. It was bigger than a cry, really…more like a sob. I look back at this scene and I see my kids – they are shocked into stillness. Their meltdowns immediately evaporate. The look on their little faces as they see me at my lowest point. Jaden comes over first (Farrah soon to follow). He wraps his little arms around me and with so much empathetic sweetness, he says ‘It’s ok mommy. I love you. This is just how you’re feeling now, but it won’t last. It’s ok.’
WOW. He got it. He GETS IT! He said to me, the words I say to him in the moments when HE needs to hear it the most. It felt serendipitous, yet completely logical, and I immediately started to feel better. The clouds began to lift. And I realized, that he has been listening (whether it be subconsciously or consciously or BOTH), the whole time. His display of pure, sweet, empathy, brought me back to reality, and with a deep love for these little beings, and a sprinkle of self-compassion, I wrapped my arms around my two favourite petite humans. It was going to be ok.
“Immediate compassion for your missteps, gives you the strength to take the next best step” – Danielle Laporte
Life is a messy, complicated game. One where we are on a never-ending journey of learning how to balance all of our emotions, while figuring out how to deal with our successes, failures, highs, lows, dynamic array of relationships, our position within those relationships, transitions…shall I continue?
Life is perfectly imperfect, yet it seems we (our society) are always striving for an unrealistic attainment of consistent joy and happiness. Not going to happen.
There is nothing wrong with striving for joy – this is a very innate part of our human experience. Wanting happiness is NORMAL. But understanding that our emotions are not static, and letting go of expectations of perfection and constant bliss, gives us the freedom to be. Just as we are, in each and every moment….to just be. And with this, comes a natural ability to show ourselves the compassion we would show to a friend, a child, a spouse.
“With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we'd give to a good friend” – Dr Kirstin Neff
And I realized that, just as my children are learning how to empathize and show compassion toward others by watching me and how I display these acts of kindness, they are surely also learning the art of self-compassion simply by being exposed to how I use it in situations like this.
Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin, and founder of www.self-compassion.org, says “having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way.”
She goes on to say, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
So back to the scene of us huddled together, tears drying up, I was mindful of my words, as I spoke to my children:
"Thank you for this. Your compassion and empathy makes me feel so good. And I know that this is just a moment in time. Sometimes we feel happy and sometimes we feel sad, and this is all a normal part of life. I honour and accept my feelings, just as they are….and you know what? I feel better already. Thank you, and I love you."
I started to learn the power of self-compassion when I began my personal development journey years ago. In allowing ourselves to ‘just be’, and not labeling our emotions, our successes or failures as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and honouring all of our feelings, is the most empowering life hack I have ever realized. And in being true to myself and showering myself with self-compassion when I need it, I hope for my children to learn from my example and have this skill at their fingertips early in life.