Despite the fact that there is a great deal of research to support the benefits of self-compassion, many people still have a lot of resistance to this word and to giving it a try themselves. In this video and blog series I’ll be addressing the common myths of self-compassion in hopes that it will encourage you to give self-compassion a try yourself.
You can watch the intro video or read more about it below:
For the past five years I’ve been working with international clients, including expats, immigrants, international school teachers, diplomats, study abroad students, adult TCKs, international NGO employees, and others. I previously worked as a therapist, and more recently made the switch to coaching international clients. Although the work I do with clients has shifted now that I provide coaching, one thing remains the same– my clients come to me with a wide variety of different types of concerns.
Sometimes these concerns are specifically related to living a globally mobile life, such as cultural adjustment, repatriation, navigating intercultural relationships, or deciding where to move next. However, other times clients reach out to me because they’re struggling with procrastination, imposter syndrome, a toxic work environment, or dealing with the end to a romantic relationship.
Because of this, I’m always on the search for tools and resources that I can use with the greatest number of clients as possible. One such tool I’ve found is that of mindfulness. A few years ago I began regularly practicing mindfulness meditation after taking the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. I found that daily mediation was a huge help in managing stress and increasing my concentration and empathetic listening skills so I began sharing these tools with my clients as a way for them to manage stress and more effectively interact with their thoughts and feelings.
Around the time I took the MBSR course, I’d also come across Kristin Neff’s pioneering work in the field of self-compassion. It was described as an alternative to self-esteem and I found it a refreshing tool to bring into my therapy sessions. Instead of engaging in circular debates with my clients about why they were good enough, self-compassion encouraged cultivating a voice alongside that of their inner critic–one that was encouraging and supportive, and completely acknowledged the challenges of being imperfect humans.
When I began introducing self-compassion exercises to my therapy clients, i found that they’d often respond with comments such as:
“This is the thing that’s been missing for me”
“This is the problem that connects all of my other problems”
Now, this was really exciting to me because when my clients come to work with me, I want them to walk away with self-awareness and tools that they can continue to use when future problems arise. (Of course, there were still plenty of clients who were highly skeptical and that’s one of the reason’s I’ve created this video and blog series).
After witnessing just how much self-compassion was helping my clients, I decided that I wanted to dive deeper into the research and practice. I enrolled in an intensive version of the Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) course (there’s also a weekly option that lasts for 8 weeks), that was co-founded by Dr. Kristin Neff, and I was lucky enough to take the course with her and the other MSC co-founder, Dr. Chris Germer. Somehow, even though there were over 100 of us in attendance, who had traveled from all over the world to be there, Chris and Kristin managed to create an intimate environment which allowed us to fully explore the MSC practices.
Upon arriving at the course they’d asked us helping professionals to take off our professional hat for the week in order to fully experience the power of self-compassion. I did just that and am so grateful I did because it truly allowed me to experience the life-changing power of this course. However, it wasn’t easy. I found myself constantly thinking about how I could use the exercises with different clients, and especially how I could present MSC to more skeptical clients. When I was curious and accepting of these thoughts I discovered that they were giving me important feedback– I wanted to get trained to teach this course myself.
I did take a couple of months after the course to let myself think about it, but at the end of last year I decided that yes, this year I would get trained to become an MSC teacher myself. It’s quite an intensive training because in addition to attending an MSC course yourself, you also need to attend a silent meditation retreat before you can attend the teacher training. I attended my silent retreat earlier this year in London and it was definitely a challenge. You can read this blog post to learn more about why I almost left and how self-compassion helped me stay.
Prior to my teacher training this year, I recorded a series of Facebook live videos about the misconceptions or myths of self-compassion. There’s such a great deal of research supporting the mental and physical health benefits of self-compassion. People who are more self-compassionate tend to have greater happiness, life satisfaction, motivation, and better relationships and physical health. They also have less anxiety and depression, and greater resilience in the face of stressful life events. However, despite this research, I still find that when I tell people about self-compassion and the MSC program, I often get confused looks.
The most common myths of self-compassion are:
- Self-compassion is a form of self-pity
- Self-compassion means weakness
- Self-compassion will make me lazy
- Self-compassion will make me self-centered
- Self-compassion is selfish
I strongly believe that these myths of self-compassion come up as a way to keep us stuck in the status quo of being hard on ourselves and not prioritizing our own needs. For most of us, that’s what we’re used to, and familiar territory, even if it comes with plenty of downsides, is often more comfortable and less scary than setting out into the unknown.
When I took the MSC course last year, Chris Germer informed us all that practicing self-compassion is a hero’s journey. Self-compassion is anything but weak. It requires you to be brave and courageous to unlearn the messages the world has told you about what to do when you’re hurting. It asks you to begin to be the hero of your own life.
I invite you to join me on this journey. The first step is to become aware of what your own inner obstacles are for beginning to treat yourself with compassion and friendliness. Head to my YouTube channel to watch my videos where I break apart these myths.
I’d also encourage you to head to Dr. Kristin Neff’s website and take her self-assessment to see your own level of self-compassion.
Would you like to learn more about my coaching services for expats and global nomads? I offer a free 30-minute consultation for potential clients so that you can see if my coaching services are a good fit for you: