Why self-compassion is not self-indulgence.

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 “I’m so much nicer to everyone but myself.” 

 “I would never be so harsh with someone I loved.”

“I would never be this mean to a friend.” 

 

I hear these words from clients, friends and strangers.  It's hard to be gentle with ourselves.  But why?  

Self-compassion may feel strange or self-indulgent.  We believe that if we don't yell at ourselves, things won’t get done right.  There will be deadlines missed.  Tasks half-finished.  

We believe we won't be enough.  

So let's look at the research. Dr. Kristin Neff is a leading expert on self-compassion and self-esteem.  She explains that when we sharply criticize ourselves, we fire up our “fight or flight” system—the system that tells us we are under threat. 

Our bodies frantically pump more adrenaline and cortisol.  Anxiety shoots up, and over time, so do feelings of sadness.  

We attack ourselves at our most vulnerable.  Criticizing ourselves backfires.    

The good news is that self-compassion works differently.  Neff's research indicates that compassionate self-talk actually reduces cortisol levels.  Our bodies pump something much more soothing—the "hug hormone" known as oxytocin. 

Self-compassion allows us to think more clearly, connect more easily with others and produce our best work.  

***

You can take a self-compassion break.  This very moment, with me. 

Exercises courtesy of Dr. Kristin Neff at self-compassion.org

First, think of a situation in your life that is difficult or painful.  Feel where the stress is heavy in your body.  Notice how you’re breathing. 

Say to yourself:  This hurts.  Right now, this hurts. 

Put your hands over your heart.  Close your eyes.  Listen to your breathing again.  This is mindfulness. 

Say to yourself:  May I be kind to myself.  

May I give myself the compassion that I need in this moment. 

May I forgive myself.

 

You can practice anytime, anywhere.  

Wishing you moments of self-compassion and warmth,

Jenny

Finding your therapist.

Often people ask me this question:  What kind of therapist are you?

 

My mind starts thinking in lists—lists of skills.  My training and experience.  The kinds of clients I see. The technical stuff.   

These things are important.  And yet, for a moment, I’d like to turn off the list. 

Things become quieter, calmer. 

If I really listen to myself, I would rather answer this:  What do you believe in?

Because this—this question and this answer—is how you will ultimately find your therapist match.

 

So, Jennifer. 

 

What do you believe in?

 

I believe it’s always okay to ask for extra support. 

I believe we will hurt, sometimes in the most raw and vulnerable ways. I believe this pain will ease—even when it appears to have set up its home. 

I believe, very fiercely, that we heal. 

I believe in science and I believe in finding meaning that science cannot explain. 

I believe in the details of someone’s life and someone’s face. 

I believe feeling understood can give us bursts of strength.  And that these bursts can carry us through many, many things.

I believe in poetry and nature.  I believe people do the best they can.  I believe in grief, joy, fear and love.  That we can hold it all. 

That we can—and do—get better.

 

What do you believe in?

Leave me a message here or email me at jenniferdiamondbayarea@gmail.com.  I’d like to know.

Warmly,

Jenny