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Cultivating Self-Compassion

Sep 29 2021
By Laura Roe Stevens
4 min read
A woman on a hike taking a moment to take in the scenery.

Ever wonder how some people seem to sail through tough times, while others struggle for years?

Experts say one key to a person’s strength and resilience is something rarely spoken of: a dose of self-compassion.

“Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves in times of suffering that enables increased kindness and decreased self-judgment,” says Jaimie Mudd, MDiv, MC, PCC, spiritual wellness provider at Canyon Ranch.

“When we’re able to be kind to ourselves and lighten up on self-criticism, it allows each of us to be honest without being harsh. We can have our unique experience, while also connecting to the larger human experience of loss, failure, pain, and healing,” she says.
Jaimie’s advice is not solely based on her training and education. It’s deeply rooted in experience and recent losses.

“This year I have experienced profound loss in a short period of time,” she begins. “Ten people dear to me, including my beloved brother, passed away. “When needed, I asked for support from trusted friends. My healing journey includes acts of self-compassion: walking in nature, using creative expression through photography, and writing to share this journey with my community. I allow myself to open my heart and connect to both loving awareness as well as to the fullness of grief.”

Self-compassion is not just needed during the loss of loved ones. For instance, allowing yourself to be kind and more accepting during any hardships – from job instability to illness or divorce – can help. If you’re hard on yourself and filled with perfectionist or unforgiving thoughts during stressful times, Jaimie suggests mindfulness techniques to foster healing and greater compassion for yourself.

First and foremost, incorporate some self-care into your life. The term “self-care” is often championed in the media – and people can say just about anything is a form of self-care, from splurging on a glass of champagne to getting a pedicure. But what Jaimie is referring to are mindful ways to get centered, lower stress, and foster joy in your daily life.

These examples of mindful self-care practices can help you cultivate self-compassion:

  • Pause and take five slowing and calming breaths in the morning to start your day. Be sure to breathe deep from the belly. “Whenever you have your form of a mental block or losing your way, take breaths and pause,” advises Jaimie.

  • Slow down to enjoy a moment of awe and wonder. Need ideas? Take a nature walk, go stargazing, look into the eyes of a delighted child, notice butterflies, hummingbirds, and flowers in your neighborhood. As Jaimie says, “When the going gets tough, turn to wonder.”

  • Say no more, and take a nap. When you’re overwhelmed and out of balance, it’s critical to realign, prioritize, and recognize your own needs.

Maybe cleaning your house or car or garage makes you feel better. Or going through old photographs and writing about fun times in a journal might create a wellspring of gratitude. Practice whichever self-care acts speak most to you. And if you’re grieving and unable to pause to take care of yourself, acknowledge that and be gentle with yourself. Give yourself permission not to be perfect during this trying time. Ask for help or to talk with a friend, too. Self-compassion can make all the difference to you.

References:
Bluth, Karen, Neff, Kristen D,(2018) New Frontiers in Understanding the Benefits of Self Compassion, Self and Identity 17:6, 605-608

Neff, Kristen D., (2003) The Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Self-Compassion, Self and Identity, 2:3, 223-250, DOI: 10.1080/15298860309027

Barnard, Laura K., Curry, John F., (2011) Self Compassion: Conceptualizations, Correlates and Interventions, Review of General Psychology, Vol 15, 4, 289-303

Terry, Meredith L., Leary, Mark R. (2011) Self-compassion, self-regulation, and health, Self and Identity, 10:3, 352-362, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2011.558404

Headshot of Jaimie Mudd

About the Expert

Headshot of Jaimie Mudd

Jaimie Mudd

Jaimie is committed to creating a safe space for guests to explore their inner lives. Jaimie offers spiritual care, presentations and teaching, as well individual, couple, family, and group sessions on practices that sustain a generative life.