How self-compassion is more powerful than self-criticism

How self-compassion is more powerful than self-criticism

I was having a chat with one of my clients the other day, and we were talking about self-compassion and that mainstream psychology has had a lot of focus on in the last few years. And so there’s been a lot of researchers that have looked at the area of self-compassion.  I think there’s almost something like a thousand research papers that have been published on the area of self-compassion and mental health and how shifting our internal monologues and shifting our internal world to a more self-compassionate stance can be so beneficial for us just in our day to day lives, and also in terms of helping us overcome mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. We all need as much compassion directed towards ourselves and directed towards others as we can possibly get, especially at this time, always, but especially now.

So my client was mentioning to me that he found it incredibly difficult to show himself any type of care, any type of positive, warm regard.  He described it as a real struggle and he’s not alone. I don’t think it’s an easy thing for us to get our head around as humans, because we’re programmed to multitask, we’re programmed since birth to survive and grow and look after others and be aware of what could go wrong.  And when we have our quiet moments, we tend to go to the negative often. We tend to think of  “what have I done in the past that I wasn’t so happy about? “What does the future hold for me” and so forth. So it’s really hard to stay in the zone of a mindful brain, so to speak.

Mindfulness is so important for self-compassion and some people have referred to self-compassion with mindfulness with the word ‘kindfulness’.  Kindfulness, what a beautiful word.  So my client was saying that when he attempts to think about his self in encouraging and kind terms, he just runs up against so many internal difficulties.  One of the main difficulties he runs up against is the idea that if he is kind to himself, if he says nice things to himself, then two things will happen.

One is that he feels that saying kind things will  make him weak, and that’s it’s a kind of indulgent weakness. Interesting isn’t it, that the thought that being kind to ourselves, just like we would be kind to others means that somehow we are weak or that we’re letting ourselves off the hook or that we’re being indulgent.

The second struggle that he mentioned was when he attempted to be self-compassionate, he worried about if he became too self-compassionate then he wouldn’t have this other part of his brain, (which actually is just a very critical part of the brain) and he would become soft.  He worried that self-compassion would turn him into a softie, insofar as he wouldn’t be able to motivate himself. There would be not this voice inside him saying, “Come on. What do you think you’re doing? Don’t be lazy. If only you tried harder. Look at all these other people succeeding and you’re not as good as them, so you better get your act together.” So there was this kind of internal monologue that he had as well.

Gemma Gladstone:         And so he was describing that if he did the self-compassion or tried to develop a sense of self-compassion, then who would motivate him? What internal voice would motivate him? And so I thought, wow, okay, well, they’re very common, very common concerns and very common things that people will butt up against when they experiment with this idea of being compassionate to yourself.

Gemma Gladstone:         And what does that really mean anyway? But two of the obstacles he was voicing, which are really common obstacles. One, he’ll become soft and he won’t be able to motivate himself because he won’t be saying come on, get your act together. And the other one is that he’ll feel indulgent and it’ll be weak, it’ll be a sign of weakness for him. And of course he’s not Robinson Crusoe there, a lot of people think like this.

Gemma Gladstone:         So what I thought I’d do is talk a little bit about self-compassion and why that might differ from a couple of other emotional, psychological states that we often refer to that are similar, and why it’s so important to think about the self, ourselves, when we’re thinking about compassion.

Gemma Gladstone:         So a little bit of a background that you may or may not know. I think a lot of the research at the moment in psychology and self-compassion has become, I don’t know about a buzzword, but certainly a very popular term. And that’s great because I think we’ve avoided it for so many years here in the West. It’s all about how can we be better, how can we get rid of distress, what can we do to improve ourselves and all of that kind of stuff. If we’ve got a negative emotion, we need to change it.

Gemma Gladstone:         And historically, that’s been the focus with psychology as well and it’s only been in the last 10, 20 years that mindfulness has really come on the scene in mainstream psychology and in the West in terms of being discussed in the mental health sphere anyway.

Gemma Gladstone:         So self-compassion. So as I’ve mentioned, it’s a big, hot topic, and it is a topic where there’s been lots and lots of research done, which is fascinating, not only anecdotal research where people are describing their self-reports, but there’s also been a more hard science type of research involving the use of scanners. So MRI machines and FMRI machines looking at the brain and looking at what happens to the brain when we meditate and when we do a particular type of meditation.

Gemma Gladstone:         Now, for those of you who might have listened to a couple of my previous meditations, I’ve talked you through the metta bhavana and the metta bhavana is a traditional Buddhist meditation, and metta means love. And this kind of meditation is called the loving kindness meditation. And this is a meditation when we actually have the intention of sending ourselves well wishes, and others, but we’re sending ourselves …

Gemma Gladstone:         It’s not an affirmation. It’s not saying I am happy, I am strong, I am successful, but it’s a compassionate stance where we wish ourselves well. We look at ourselves and particularly we could look at ourselves in a moment of suffering, in a moment where we’re not feeling so great … of the intention of wanting good things for our ourselves.

Gemma Gladstone:         So in the meditations that I’ve provided in this podcast, I talk about that a little bit more, and I’ll give you an example. So if you want to go and check out that meditation, please do so. So what is compassion anyway?

Gemma Gladstone:         Well, stemming from the Buddhist literature and the more modern writings of compassion in the psychology literature, we talk about compassion being … For compassion to exist and to be expressed, there must be an element of suffering that exists somewhere, whether it be in the other person or whether it be in ourselves.

Gemma Gladstone:         And so a great definition of compassion is when kindness meets suffering. And compassion involves the noticing of pain. It involves the noticing of our pain, our emotional pain or whatever pain it is, the noticing of our pain and suffering. So it’s the awareness that these things exist. And then the second element of compassion is the intention and the desire to alleviate that suffering or to help.

Gemma Gladstone:         Now, I think we all know intuitively that compassion means that kind of stuff, but what about … And many of us are great, many of you out there are fantastic at giving compassion and showing compassion to others, whether that be your family, friends, maybe your patients, if you work in the health industry, clients, children, et cetera, people that you love and care about and people that you want to help. But what about self-compassion? So if compassion means when kindness meets suffering, then self-compassion must mean meeting your own pain and suffering with loving kindness.

Gemma Gladstone:         Now there’s been a number of researchers in the field who have really studied self-compassion and its effects on how we feel as people, what happens to us, what happens to our brain, what happens to our mental health symptoms, what happens to our interpersonal relationships. I’ll just mention three researchers in case you’re interested and they’ll be in the show notes.

Gemma Gladstone:         And the first one is a woman called Kristin Neff. And Kristin Neff has written a few different books, but she’s a great place to get started. One of my favorite books is by a man called Chris Germer and he’s written a book called The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion, and it’s great. It’s just a really easy read, and it just turns the mind to getting you to start thinking about what is this and how might I apply this to my own life.

Gemma Gladstone:         Kristin Neff talks about and has brought to the fore, three components of self-compassion. She talks about kindness, obviously, because that’s a key to self-compassion. She talks about mindfulness, which hopefully we all know quite a bit about mindfulness these days. And mindfulness in this sense is at first of course, we have to have the awareness of what’s going on. We have to turn on our mindful brain. So I suppose the two of those themes together is coming back to that word kindfulness.

Gemma Gladstone:         And the third issue she talks about is this sense of common humanity in that we all suffer. I suffer, you suffer, our friends suffer, our kids suffer, our family suffers. Everybody that ever walks the face of this earth will suffer in all different ways and it is inherent in the human condition.

Gemma Gladstone:         And I suppose if we’re harking back to the Buddhist origins of this, then one of the first truths in Buddhism is that life is in fact unsatisfactory and there is an element of suffering in life that we cannot escape from because it’s so inherent in just our experience of being on this planet.

Gemma Gladstone:         So we may all suffer in different ways and surely we look at some people or perhaps in our own life sometimes, and we think, gosh, why am I suffering so much? And certainly I hear a lot of stories and as therapists, Justine and I hear lots of our client stories, and sometimes we think, wow when is this person going to get a break? So sometimes suffering just comes and keeps coming and keeps coming.

Gemma Gladstone:         And we are a human, and it’s impossible to escape from that very reality, but self-compassion provides us with a gift in the sense that if we can pause long enough to recognize our own suffering and to be kind to that rather than critical, and to be kind to our own emotions rather than judgemental and critical of our emotions.

Gemma Gladstone:         So if you’re having a negative emotion, whatever that may be, instead of berating yourself for having that emotion, how about just recognizing that you have it and recognizing the difficulty of your circumstances and that it might be okay and totally understandable to be feeling that way because you are human. And you’re an imperfect human living in an incredibly imperfect world and self-compassion helps us navigate our way through that a little bit.

Gemma Gladstone:         The third researcher and psychologist I want to mention is a guy called Paul Gilbert. And he’s got a lot of stuff on YouTube you might find interesting. And he’s looked at a lot of neurological processes and the evolutionary processes in relation to self-compassion.

Gemma Gladstone:         And finally, there’s a woman in Europe called Tania Singer. And she has done a lot of very fascinating research where she has compared the internal processes and experiences of empathy compared with compassion. And she’s studied the brain of monks in her scanner, and she’s done lots of experiments and looked at the different brain mechanisms and the brain pathways and parts of the brain that light up when we empathize with someone, like trying to just feel what they’re feeling. So when we feel what they’re feeling, as opposed to when we are compassionate, which is not stepping in their shoes, but having a little bit of distance and just wanting the best for them, sending love and good intentions and well wishes and goodwill to the person.

Gemma Gladstone:         So that’s actually a really big burgeoning area in itself and there’s quite a bit to be said on that. And it’s one of the things I talk about when I do a workshop and a retreat that I do every year or two years on self-care for the therapist. And I talk about what are the subtle differences between empathy and compassion and how can we use this when we’re working. And not only for therapists, but that would be very relevant for anybody in the healthcare professions, doctors, nurses, anybody who works with patients, who’s confronted with the patient’s distress and suffering. How can we keep ourselves well, but also be there for our clients and the people we care for?

Gemma Gladstone:         So what might be some examples of how we can apply self-compassion? We talk about trying to develop a trait of self-compassion, having it that it’s an automatic process, and we can get this if we begin to practice.

Gemma Gladstone:         So a way to practice and start thinking about this is to recognize when you’re next in a difficult spot. So maybe this might be a conflict that you have with someone, or maybe you’re looking after the kids and it’s just exhausting, or you’re getting really angry about something, you’ve had a fight with your partner or just you’ve had a lot on this year and 2020 has been a nightmare and now something else has gone wrong.

Gemma Gladstone:         So in those moments of things not going according to plan, just create a mindful pause, a mindful pause, where you stop and you check and you go inward and you ask yourself, oh … Firstly, a great question to ask yourself is, what do I need right now? What do I need? It might be that you need to go for a long walk and shake the day off. It might be that you need rest and you need to have an nap. It might be that you need company and that you need to have a chat with a friend or a family member. What is it that you need, asking yourself that every day, just checking in.

Gemma Gladstone:         And also in those moments of difficulty, it’s about being able to stop, check in and turning on the mindful brain. So making sure your mindful brain is online just by sort of noticing, hey, what am I feeling now? What am I noticing in my senses? And ask yourself what’s happening for me right now? How am I feeling? And then bringing compassion in.

Gemma Gladstone:         So once you’ve identified what you’re feeling, then you can bring compassion in by saying to yourself, well, it’s pretty understandable that I’m feeling like this, I think most people in my situation would be feeling like this. It’s difficult and my emotions are valid. They’re not scary. They’re not wrong. They’re just an emotion that I’m having now. I mean, it’s going to shift, it’ll come and it’ll go. This too will pass. And I’m a human being and I’m imperfect and I’m allowed to make mistakes.

Gemma Gladstone:         So if you’re upset by something and you could have two ways of dealing with that, one, you could berate yourself and you could say, oh, come on, I shouldn’t feel sad. This is a happy moment for people. Or I shouldn’t be angry. What have I got to be complaining about? So there’s a critical response to your feelings. That’s one response. I suppose you could continue doing that although, that wouldn’t get you very far.

Gemma Gladstone:         Or there could be the self-compassionate response, which would say, hey, you’re doing well. Yep. It’s okay that you actually feel angry at the moment because this is a difficult place and most people would feel angry in this moment. Or it’s okay to have this emotion. It’s okay to be sad right now.

Gemma Gladstone:         And just recognize your emotions by saying, well, that’s how I feel right now. Okay, that’s interesting. Yeah, I feel sad right now. That’s surprising, but it’s okay. I’m allowed to have this feeling. I’m allowed to have this thought or this feeling right now. It’s okay. I’m only human. I’m doing well and this feeling will pass. So these are all softer, gentler, kinder, more compassionate words that you can use, but asking yourself, what do you need is always a good place to start?

Gemma Gladstone:         A lot of people I speak to, and this is one of the things that gets people in trouble in terms of mental health and plays a role in chronic depression is that people really judge their emotions very harshly. Clients will often say to me, “I shouldn’t be feeling like this,” or, “What have I got to complain about? Others have it much worse.”

Gemma Gladstone:         I was raised by a mother that was always at work and my dad was narcissistic or something like that, they might have, and they’ll be talking about their experiences of that. But then they’ll say, “Well, what have I got to complain about? Because at least I wasn’t abused. Some kids are violently abused and locked in cupboards and things like that and at least that didn’t happen to me. So I shouldn’t be complaining about anything.” Well, that’s such a blocking stance. It’s really unkind. And it takes away the compassion. That suffering part of you, that child who was affected by however you were parented, he or she’s allowed to have those feelings.

Gemma Gladstone:         So if we judge ourselves too harshly for an emotion, particularly emotions and difficulties that stem from childhood, if we judge ourselves too harshly for our psychological experiences and our emotions, then we’ll deny that emotion. And when we deny an important emotion, we also tend to cut off a part of ourselves. And when we cut off a part of ourselves, we reject a part of ourselves and then we have what really is self-abandonment. And when we abandon a part of ourselves, we can’t be whole.

Gemma Gladstone:         So we need to recognize all the times that we have suffered and we need to have an internal monologue that is kind to those parts of us, just like you would be really kind to your child. If your child had a really bad day at school and was suffering, you wouldn’t berate them, I hope, you’d be kind to them. You’d first validate and then you’d try to help, right?

Gemma Gladstone:         So if you had a really good friend who had a terrible day with their boss, you wouldn’t invalidate them. You wouldn’t say don’t be stupid. What did you do? Well, I hope you wouldn’t anyway. You’d validate and say, yeah, that sounds like a really difficult experience and you’d let them have that feeling.

Gemma Gladstone:         So it’s about trying that with ourselves, self-validation, letting ourselves have that feeling, letting ourselves have whatever experience we’re having. And paradoxically, if we acknowledge an emotion that we have in a way that is just very authentic and kind, and we don’t judge ourselves and we say, okay, I’m sad now. Well, that’s all right. I’m allowed to feel sad. This is a sad experience. It will pass quicker than if we suppress it. If we squash it, if we try to reject it, if we push it away, it’ll only come back. You know what we resist persists.

Gemma Gladstone:         So my client, the other day said that if he tries self-compassion, if he meets his kindness … Sorry, cut that. If he tries compassion, if he meets his suffering or mistakes or difficulties or difficult emotions with a sense of kindness, then he fears that he will become soft and he won’t be able to motivate himself and push himself anymore.

Gemma Gladstone:         He criticizes himself. He’s got a really strong inner critic. But if you think that if you stop criticizing yourself, you’ll lose your motivation, that’s a bit of a tricky one, because … And it’s actually been studied and proven to some degree that self-compassion is actually a stronger motivator than self-criticism in the long run.

Gemma Gladstone:         Just think if you were working for a boss and all they did was criticize the hell out of you versus gave you positive feedback when positive feedback was due and recognized your contribution, well, which person would you work harder for? Which person would motivate you more, intrinsically that is and for the long term? Of course, the one that gave you positive, thoughtful feedback.

Gemma Gladstone:         So internal criticism, having this critical inner critic … Well, we call it in schema therapy, the punitive parent mode or the demanding parent mode, but it’s just another word for the different types of inner critics. Having the inner critic as a dominant voice in your life means that you won’t actually motivate yourself more because you spend an awful lot of time … It’s incredibly time consuming and emotionally exhausting to have inner dialogues with your inner critic.

Gemma Gladstone:         If you develop more of a self-compassionate voice as a trait, one that gradually becomes more and more automatic, then you’ll become your own internal coach and your own internal friend that is a part of your brain that is always wanting to encourage you and support yourself to be better and continue on whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Because people often say that I’ll become lazy if I stop criticizing myself.

Gemma Gladstone:         And so criticism, self-criticism is a barrier to self-compassion. And it’s an interesting one, criticism, because if you think about it, if you’ve got a strong inner critic that’s always there in your mind waiting for any opportunity to berate you, waiting for any opportunity to tell you how you went wrong, or how you stuffed up, then you’re less inclined to take risks, people who are highly critical of themselves and of others.

Gemma Gladstone:         So they might have a very strong, punitive parent mode in schema therapy or punitive critic mode, and a very strong demanding parent mode or demanding critic mode. People who have a very strong critic tend to be rather risk averse. Interesting, right? So if you have a very strong inner critic, you will take, and this is on balance really, less risks, particularly around the area where you’re putting yourself out there and you are doing something that perhaps you haven’t done before, or you’re trying new tasks or you’re doing something big.

Gemma Gladstone:         So they tend to be risk averse and not take risks and not try new things. So they’ll try to avoid coming in contact with new challenges in case they fail, fail in inverted commas, whatever that standard might be. And so if you are risk averse and you avoid doing new things or things you actually really want to do, but they’re just new and they’re a little bit demanding because you might fail, you miss out.

Gemma Gladstone:         But if you’ve developed a self-compassionate stance and instead of a harsh inner critic you have a compassionate friend in your head, a compassionate voice in your head, then that’s okay, you can take risks. You can take all the risks at work, or you can do that public speaking if you want, or you could run that workshop at work or speak at that conference, or write that book or do that podcast or whatever it is you want to do, because you don’t have the critic waiting, waiting in the dark corners of your mind, ready to jump out and berate you.

Gemma Gladstone:         You have the self-compassionate voice, the healthy adult voice, we call it in schema therapy that says, hey, you tried, you learned, you did a good job. You put the effort in, well done. Not everybody does that. Good on you. You learned. You’re learning. You’re taking risks and that’s to be appreciated and acknowledged and congratulated. So if you have that voice waiting for you, then who cares if you try something new and fail, right? But if you have the critic waiting, that’s a totally different story altogether.

Gemma Gladstone:         So that’s one of the obstacles people will face that they think that if they are self-compassionate, they’ll somehow be less motivated. But really self-compassion is a stronger motivator, especially in the long term.

Gemma Gladstone:         Think about if you want to change a behavior. Okay, so think about, I don’t know, you’ve got high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or you want to lose some weight and your doctor says to you, “You need to walk every day. You need to just walk there. That’s good for your heart. You need to get out there and you need to have a walk every day.”

Gemma Gladstone:         So you want to do this behavior. Part of you really, really wants to do it, but another part may not be so fussed about it. And so the critic comes on board and says, right, you lazy sod, you haven’t walked, you’ve got this high blood pressure. All you have is yourself to blame. You need to get out and walk every day. You’re lazy. Maybe it even says you’re a fat slob, if you’ve got a really harsh inner critic. You never do anything. You never stick to anything. Come on. What’s wrong with you? Everyone else is up at the gym at 5:00 AM and you can’t even get out of bed.

Gemma Gladstone:         And if that’s your motivator, how long is that behavior going to last? Not very long, not very long. But if your motivator is a self-compassionate voice, it has a very different monologue. It has a very different story. It says, hey, we know we’ve got a problem. We know we’ve got a health issue and you know what? I want you to live a long and healthy life. I want you to be the best you that you can be.

Gemma Gladstone:         And I don’t want you to suffer. I don’t want you to have heart problems. I don’t want you to develop organ problems because you’ve got kidney failure because your blood pressure’s so high … you to be healthy and happy and enjoy yourself and your friends and your family because you’ve got a lot to offer. And I want you to be around as long as you possibly can and you can do it. I know you can. You can do anything you set your mind to. Plus, walking every day is great. You get to put your earphones in and listen to podcasts. So that might be your self-compassionate voice. Very different kind of stance. It has a stance of wanting the best for you.

Gemma Gladstone:         The other thing that people say is, oh God, I’d be so up myself and all this talk about self-love, but it’s different. Yes, too much self-love, maybe we’d be talking about terrible self-absorption and a self-obsession or being vain, but we’re not talking about that. Self-compassion is a bit more than that. It’s deeper. It’s a deeper concept because it’s about the struggles that we have and meeting those struggles with kindness and encouragement and courage sometimes.

Gemma Gladstone:         Courage is another really important element of self-compassion as well, because it takes courage to get up and go for that walk, if you really don’t feel like going. So if you’ve got a niggling health problem and you’re avoidant of doctors, it really takes courage to face your fears head on and say, you know what? I’ve got to get this thing checked out. I’ve got to get this medical complaint checked out and I’ve got to make some changes. That takes courage. Not being an ostrich with your head in the sand takes courage and that’s self-compassion.

Gemma Gladstone:         So there’s many, many facets of self-compassion and there’s different things that can get in the way of it. Schemas, some schemas that get in the way of it, I’ve already mentioned the critic, having an unrelenting standards schema. So super, super high perfectionism can block the self-compassionate mind, expecting ourselves to be perfect.

Gemma Gladstone:         Well, I always say to my clients and myself, as well as other things we can do with having too high standards or very high perfectionism is we can look around and remind ourselves of where we are and where we live and who’s around us. And we are imperfect humans living with or within an imperfect household, within an imperfect community, within an imperfect society, within an imperfect world and we can’t expect ourselves to be perfect when we in fact are surrounded by imperfection, right? So we have to be really realistic when we talk about our expectations and our expectations of others.

Gemma Gladstone:         Defectiveness as a schema, this is the schema that is around not feeling like you’re worth it. So feeling poorly about yourself and feeling like you don’t deserve good things, so low self-worth. So feeling like you don’t deserve kindness.

Gemma Gladstone:         Well, if this is the case, I would urge you to read those self-compassion books and even seek out some professional help and maybe see someone who practices a compassion focused therapy or mindful self-compassion to help you just shift and change some of those neural pathways because you’re alive, therefore you’re worth it, okay?

Gemma Gladstone:         You are alive. You’re a human being, you’re here, therefore you’re worth it. And since you are here, you may as well practice self-compassion. But defectiveness is a pretty strong schema and it’s one of the core schemas and it can be a little bit hard to shift, but not impossible.

Gemma Gladstone:         Another schema, there’s other directed schemas, self-sacrifice, that’s a big one. The idea that you have to put other people first before you consider your own needs, thoughts and agendas, that you have to always focus on other people’s thoughts and feelings first, and then you make decisions for yourself. This can get in the way of self-compassion and self-care, right?

Gemma Gladstone:         And you know why? It’s also, because if you’re a big self-sacrificer, you could be more inclined to over empathize. Now, when we’re trained as clinicians and psychologists, obviously empathy is a key skill, right? We’re born innately with empathy, and then it gets expressed through our experiences, but some of us can over empathize. We can be too empathic.

Gemma Gladstone:         And what I mean is that we lose ourselves within the other and we can always walk around in other people’s shoes, metaphorically, and we can feel other people’s pains very, very strongly. Sometimes this is called an empath in pop psychology, people who really feel the pain of others. And they usually have a very big self-sacrifice schema and they often have a lot of guilt, internalized guilt. So guilt can stand in the way of self-compassion. They may have plenty of self-compassion for others, but they don’t stop and ask themselves, what do I need? What about me? What about me? What do I need to get through? What do I need to get through now?

Gemma Gladstone:         So I’ve mentioned validation before, but it’s a key thing and that’s all that any of us really ever want is validation. Validation is when we can see what’s going on for a person and we can try to articulate it and name it and relate to it. So if someone is feeling sad, it’s our ability to see that and to name it, like I get it. That must have made you really sad, or yeah, that argument at work or that lack of acknowledgement at work must have made you really angry, really frustrated. I get it. That’s validation.

Gemma Gladstone:         With validation, I don’t have to fix the problem. We don’t have to fix the problem for the person, it’s not about that. It’s about hearing the problem and it’s about having really big ears and a really small mouth. It’s about hearing the problem, feeling it, and then being able to reflect back, ah, so this is what I hear that you’re feeling. This is what I hear you saying.

Gemma Gladstone:         So when we have compassion and self-compassion, we can do that to ourselves, for ourselves. Try practicing more self-compassion in the moment, don’t dismiss yourself. Don’t dismiss your feelings when they come up. Someone who chronically suppresses or dismisses their own feelings and thoughts, particularly for the sake of others, and they do this chronically on repeat, then this can lead to a very depressed emotional state.

Gemma Gladstone:         So try to validate your own feelings for yourself. Self-compassion first. Bring it in, in the moment, moments of hardship for yourself, moments of difficulty, whatever they will be. You’re watching the news and you’re seeing some more reports on how many more people have died from COVID-19. That’s a strong emotion and sometimes I’m blown away by what I hear and see on the news and I’m not even in the thick of it.

Gemma Gladstone:         But when you are, no matter what it is, attend to yourself first. Give yourself that oxygen mask that falls down in the plane. Give yourself that mask first so that you can start filling your cup and saying, oh yeah, I’m feeling this, this is hard. It’s been a hard year. I’ve done well just to get through this year. There’s been a lot of suffering, a lot of pain. I’ve done well just to get through and to be there for others and so forth.

Gemma Gladstone:         Whatever it is, however way you can encourage yourself, start to practice to encourage yourself more and more particularly in moments of difficulty and moments of hardship. Learning to be a good parent and in some cases for some people, it’s the parent they never had, learning to be a really good parent to yourself for yourself.

Gemma Gladstone:         First, be that best friend to yourself, be there. And the more you practice that, this kindfulness, this bringing kind warmth, softness, encouragement, and just this sense of loving kindness and intention for, I want what’s best for you. Wanting what’s best for yourself is not greedy, it’s not indulgent and it’s not weak. In fact, if you do this, you’ll become more resilient, you’ll have more capacity to help others and you’ll have better mental health outcomes down the track.

Gemma Gladstone:         So practicing self-compassion wherever you can is going to be a really worthwhile exercise for you. If you get a chance, check out that loving kindness meditation I did. The first one I did was just focusing on yourself, sending metta to yourself. And the second one was focusing on others. Great meditation to do before bed.

Gemma Gladstone:         And when you’re lying in bed, whether you’ve done that meditation or not, at the end of the day, just notice how did you feel and put your hand on your heart. And if there were any moments of difficulty, just say to yourself in your own mind, yeah, that was difficult. It’s okay to feel that. It’s just that validation is such an important part of self-compassion, giving yourself permission to have a feeling for a start.

Gemma Gladstone:         So I hope that has given you some more ideas about self-compassion and perhaps given you some suggestions and tips about how you can bring that into your own life and how you can watch out for some of those barriers that get in the way. They’re just stories we tell ourselves. That’s all they are. Stories that we tell ourselves get in the way.

Gemma Gladstone:         And how you might be just a little kinder and a little more mindful about tuning into how you feel and just letting your emotions be, not getting angry with them, not dismissing them, not diminishing them, but acknowledging that they’re there for a reason and they will pass and it is okay and I’m okay.

Gemma Gladstone:         So stay well, everybody. And until we meet again and chat again, I wish you all the very best of health leading up to the holidays and Christmas. And hopefully we will speak again soon and I’ll see you at the next episode. Bye for now.

Extracted from the Podcast Episode 16: Self-Compassion: How to Shift Your Inner Monologue with Dr. Gemma Gladstone

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