Compassionate acceptance creates a comforting platform for growth. Once we accept flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses, as well as notice strengths, sensitivities and passions, we open to information, otherwise defensively resisted, essential for growth. Self-kindness provides an environment that allows curious investigations necessary for growth.
Brené Brown defines self-kindness as “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism” (2010).
Harsh and critical attacks on our worth, especially when living inside of our mind, hurt. Instead of whipping the self into correction from the judgmental thoughts, the self cowers from coarseness and defensively denes reality.
Harsh self-judgments are unbearable to the sense of self. We seek escape. No improved action corrects the onslaught of oppressive self thoughts. Instead, peace of mind is sought through escapisms. We begin to protect through a string of mechanisms adapted to avoid detection of fault. We invite projections, justifications and denials into our mental processes. Estranged from reality we stagnate growth, begging for acceptance but dodging responsibility. We all adapt to the circumstances of life. We must learn to navigate the pain. We must sort through the sorrows. And then find avenues to squelch the fear. Only then can we must learn effective responses to shame and responses to guilt. The emotions of life are flags, warning something needs attention. As wonderful as the evolving brain is, it still can adopt unhealthy responses to adverse emotions.
We may temporarily soothe a discomfort; but fail to improve our lives. Immediate relief rewards the response, marking the unhealthy adaptation as an appropriate road to follow. But these dead-end alleys eventually disappoint, leaving our lives with bigger problems to resolve.
Unhealthy adaptations repel closeness. Our ingenuine relationship with the self is mirrored by our deceitful relationships with others. Sadly, the protections we integrated to avoid hurt also deter healing. We get lost in this damaging vortex of deceit and damage. The answer begins with self kindness.
“Self-compassion encourages mindfulness, or noticing your feelings without judgment; self-kindness, or talking to yourself in a soothing way; and common humanity, or thinking about how others might be suffering similarly.”~Rachel Simmons
Our Need for Belonging
We need others. We need a flow of positive regard, comforting our broken hearts. This flow can spring from many origins. Sometimes a professional, skilled in the interpersonal therapy, provides the non-judgmental acceptance we crave. Other times, we may find the help through the kindness of support groups, enmeshed in similar conflicts. Lovers also can be a constant in our lives. However, a lover is heavily invested, and sometimes their emotions and needs collide, shaking the security we desperately need.
Sadly, the protections to avoid hurt deter healing that is only possible through closeness. We get lost in the damaging vortex of deceit and damage.~T. Franklin Murphy
We should seek these outside sources to assist in recovery; but another source of compassion is also essential. We must nurture positive self-regard, loosening the demeaning and harsh judgments flowing from our own minds. Loving relationships are difficult to establish when hatred lives within. The seething evil continual poisons our interactions, rejecting new opportunities and perverting others attempts of kindness. We self-sabotage love with internal hatred.
See Self-Sabotage for more on this topic.
We must start with self kindness. We must accept we are loveable and deserving of belonging. Mindfulness is a practice to develop self-kindness. Susan David, a psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, wrote “the mental state of mindfulness lets us see the world through multiple perspectives and go forward with higher levels of self-acceptance, tolerance, and self-kindness” (2016, Kindle location 1,258).
Only in self kindness can we accept kindness from others. Kindness is a necessary condition for life long growth.
We can start the journey to self kindness through mindful awareness of self-criticism, challenging the judgements by articulating endearing qualities about ourselves. We also establish self kindness by engaging in acts of kindness towards ourselves, allowing ourselves to pursue personal passions and relax with planned self-care.
Be kind. Be patient. We are all on a journey. Once we compassionately honor ourselves with kindness, others will comfortably join in the celebration.
Brown, Brené (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Hazelden Publishing; 1st edition.
David, Susan (2016). Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. Avery.