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Making friends with self-compassion: 3 ways to get started

By Danielle Cerantonio IN Connect Repair

Struggle with self-compassion? You’re not alone.

When I speak to mums about self-compassion, they tend to look at me with a combination of confusion and outrage. Who is this woman who calls herself a mother and a psychologist? Clearly, she is neither!

Mums tend to respond to self-compassion in a similar way. Something along the lines of ‘ha! I don’t deserve compassion. I’m failing’.

Isn’t it funny how we are so talented at being compassionate to others? When someone we love is hurting, we know exactly what to do- exactly what to say. We take them in our arms, we speak with a soothing tone, and we shower them with love.

We are so talented at compassion.

So why, then, is it so hard to be compassionate towards ourselves?

Pause for a moment, and think about the things your mind says to yourself when you have made a mistake. When you have done something wrong. Does your mind speak to you softly? Does it say warm things, offer you unconditional love?

No. I’m willing to make a bet that your mind grabs a big stick, starts hitting you with it, and showers you with insults you wouldn’t consider saying to your worst enemy. ‘I’m the worst mum’. ‘I’m damaging my kids for life’. My kids hate me. I hate me’. ‘I don’t deserve to be a mum’. ‘I’m a failure’.

There are lots of reasons we don’t offer ourselves self-compassion. One is an inbuilt belief that we are not worthy. Another is the belief that if we are kind to ourselves we will become lazy. We will become complacent. We will stop moving forward.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In the same way that supporting and encouraging a child who is struggling to read helps them to improve, supporting and encouraging ourselves when things are tough helps us to drag ourselves out from under the bed, lift our chins up to the world, and push on. When we beat ourselves up, we are more likely to retreat. We are more likely to hold back from trying new things, or trying again.

So, what does self-compassion look like?

Dr Kristen Neff is a Psychologist and Buddhist specialising in Self Compassion. She describes it as the combination of 3 things- Mindfulness + Common Humanity + Self Kindness.

Mindfulness: First we need to become aware that we are experiencing a moment of suffering and acknowledge the pain we are feeling. When we are mindful, we observe our thoughts and feelings without pushing them away or ignoring them. At the same time, we don’t over-identify or get carried away with them. We notice what we are thinking and feeling, and we leave those thoughts and feelings where they are.

Shared Human Experience: Then we need to recognise that the suffering is something that we all experience. We all feel like a bad parent at some point. We all make mistakes. Pain is not something that we experience alone (even if it feels like it is).

Self Kindness: Then we need to respond to ourselves with warmth and understanding. We need to recognise that making mistakes, failing, pain and heartache are inevitable human experiences. And we need to treat ourselves gently.

So the next time you feel like a failure, the next time you scream at your children, the next time you have a melt down in the middle of the night when your baby is not sleeping, the next time you forget to bring the nappy bag to the supermarket and your child has a poo explosion;

1. Notice that it is a moment of suffering. Take some deep mindful breaths.

2. Recognise that all mums have had this experience many, many, times. You are not alone in this pain.

3. Then extend yourself the warmth and understanding that you would extend to other mums in this situation.

This isn’t easy. It takes practice and persistence. But, you’ve got this mama x

Danielle Cerantonio

Danielle is a registered Psychologist with over 10 years experience in the field of Organisational Psychology with specialist experience in  parental leave and return to work coaching. Danielle’s mission is to assist women to identify and leverage the innate strengths that arise from birthing and raising children. To step away from feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and anxiety, and step into courage, resilience, empathy and strength.

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