Tools for self-compassion

My cliff notes from “Self compassion”:

Most people, when thinking back to a time they knew they had done wrong and were wracked by guilt, feel a sense of not wanting to look back. Yet when we imagine someone else, a child, in the same situation, suffering from learning  a hard lesson, we feel a sense of compassion for them, a desire to reassure and nurture.

Extending the same compassion to ourselves is difficult for many of us, but is important for your wellbeing. Here are two tools to cultivate self-compassion:

First, the truth that self-compassion is easily confused with self-pity or making excuses, but it is quite different. You can be self-critical and honest, while still practicing self-compassion.

Imagine feeling compassion for an athlete who fails despite trying their hardest. You can empathize with their struggle and sense of failure, without pity or pretending they haven’t made the grade. You can view yourself in the same way; “You don’t need to make excuses for yourself, to take the outside view and feel the same warmth for a monkey that’s trying to try”.

Recall that we are monkeys who can fail despite our best efforts, even sometimes with parts of us working against ourselves, as in depression and self-doubt.

The second tool is to see yourself for what you are:

I see bundles of proteins and lipids arranged in a giant colony of cells, their lives given over to the implementation of a wet protein computer that thinks it’s a person.

I see fractal patterns that arise on precisely the right sort of planet when you pour sunlight into it for a billion years.

I see wiggles in the Sun’s wake that struggle to understand the universe. Incomprehensibly large constructs made of atoms, which are unnoticeably small on the scale of galaxies.

Check in with that monkey. How’s it doing? Let it know you’ve got its back. Lend it your support. Reassure it you are there for it, no matter what — you are there for yourself.