“I need to push on and progress in self-love, but I just don’t know how to overcome this!”
The above is one of the most common questions that my clients come to me with. In our journeys to finding self-love, we’re often confronted with moments that make us feel uncomfortable, unsure and downright lost. Moments like:
- Having some intense self-realisations that leave us grieving parts of our lives/selves;
- Being confronted by family/friends who are surprisingly unsupportive of our newfound love for ourselves;
- Hitting a brick wall in our journeys and being unwilling to let go of a component of our self-loathing; or
- Falling back into old negative patterns and feeling like we’ve failed.
And these are just some examples. Have you experienced any of these moments on your journey so far?
If any of these examples resonate with you, you might have told yourself (or others might have told you) that you ‘just need to get over it’ or that you ‘need to put this in the past and just move on.’
Oh, if only it were that simple!
See, here’s the thing: yes, we want to be making progress in our self-love journeys. But, true progress can’t occur when we’re holding ourselves back or limiting our capability to feel something difficult that could actually result in some healing. Self-love is a non-linear journey and we can’t just skip steps or avoid all discomfort in an attempt to get to a place of total euphoria. And when we attempt to avoid those feelings of discomfort, it can result in heavy feelings of anger, fear, guilt and shame.
What we need is to lean into that discomfort, accept it, and then learn from it.
Self-love is about the journey, not the destination… and a huge part of the self-love puzzle lies in self-compassion.
What is self-compassion?
When we want to help a person who is hurt/suffering, we feel compassion. Think about the idea of compassion for a moment… what connotations does it bring to mind? Kindness? Understanding? Comfort?
Many of us are wonderful at practicing compassion for others, yet struggle to apply the same concepts to ourselves. If you identify as your own worst critic, you’ll know exactly what I mean!
To be self-compassionate means to treat ourselves gently. It means:
- Allowing ourselves to be gentle and understanding with ourselves, instead of harsh and critical;
- Remembering that everyone experiences suffering and everyone makes mistakes;
- Allowing ourselves the opportunity to feel whatever grief or hurt that arises in whatever way we need to;
- Keeping our feelings in perspective – acknowledging our suffering without letting it define us;
- Remembering that we’ve been happy/carefree before and that we have the capability to feel that again; and
- Knowing that we are deserving of our own care – even when things go wrong, even when we’re unhappy, even when we think we need to do better.
The space of self-compassion is one of tenderness and vulnerability. This is something that a lot of us have trouble leaning into… we want to be strong and confident and capable and feeling vulnerable can have the potential to shake the very foundations of our self-image. But, in acknowledging and utilising that vulnerability, we have the potential to grow and learn.
Remember: vulnerable does not equal weak. It takes great strength to lean into that vulnerability and grow from it.
How can we be more self-compassionate?
One of the greatest tools that I recommend to my clients in aiding them to give themselves kindness is meditation. There are many ways to go about meditation and it can be a steep learning curve, but some of the easiest ways that I encourage clients to try this is by:
- Starting with short amounts of time;
- Choosing meditation objectives that align with mindfulness and awareness (to allow them to dig deep into their feelings);
- Choosing a guided meditation practice; and
- Including elements of visualisation and imagination to engage them with the experience.
If you’ve never attempted meditation before, it may feel a little strange at first. That’s okay! The key to benefiting from meditation is to forget any pre-conceived notions you may have about it, and allow yourself to experience it in whatever way it plays out for you. Meditation doesn’t have to be about totally emptying your mind (impossible!) or reaching this peak zen-like state… it can simply be about finding some moments of much-needed calm and clarity in your day.
Personally, I like to think of mini guided meditations as ‘reset buttons’ for my day.
If you recognise that you need a little more self-compassion in your life, I encourage you to try my 10-minute self-compassion guided meditation below. You can complete this practice at any time of the day or night when you need self-compassion. To get the full impact of this meditation, I recommend finding a quiet area where you’ll be uninterrupted, and can feel free to sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed.