Self Compassion and Mindfulness

Food for (these) thought(s):

The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion, Kristin Neff
Why you’re (probably) not a great communicator, The Philosophers’ Mail

Thoughts for digesting:

Both Kristin Neff’s TED Talk and the above article from The Philosophers’ Mail speak deeply to my frequent and frustrating inability to remain kind and encouraging to myself, through the awkward and maddening process of growing as person and being genuinely and sincerely alive.

Kristin Neff speaks passionately and convincingly of the benefits of self-compassion, of relating to ourselves kindly, as compared to the fragility of self-esteem contingent on being uniquely above average. She speaks to the meanness it cultivates in our society, and the self-limiting envy and prejudices it generates. The pursuit of self-worth through self-esteem negatively motivates us to only participate in domains we deem worthwhile – or perhaps more cynically, motivates us to try and elevate the domains we excel in, at the expense of demoting other equally worthy pursuits. It is however, her advocacy of mindfulness that I find most compelling and personally relevant.

“Good communication means the capacity to give another person an accurate picture of what is happening in your emotional and psychological life – and in particular, the capacity to describe its very darkest, trickiest and most awkward sides in such a way that others can understand, and even sympathise with them. The good communicator has the skill to take their beloved, in a timely, reassuring and gentle way, without melodrama or fury, into some of the trickiest areas of their personality and warn them of what is there (like a tour guide to a disaster zone), explaining what is problematic in such a way that the beloved will not be terrified, can come to understand, can be prepared and may perhaps forgive and accept.” – Why you’re (probably) not a great communicator

To me, mindfulness encompasses both good communication with others, and, perhaps more importantly, with ourselves. It is the ability to identify, empathise and interact with the many versions of us alive today – the self-critic, who inflicts unconscious pain on ourselves; the misguided lover, whose sincere expressions of care are never quite received; the people pleaser, who loses the ability to recognise and convey their own desires; the egoist, whose dependence on external self-worth sabotages the happiness of both themselves, and those subject to their attempts to shape the caprice of life into some self-affirming form. As might be evident, I am acutely aware of the weaker, more frightening sides of people, the ungenerous facets of our souls; the courageous, sincere and compassionate sides unfortunately less so. Herein lies the roots of my own lack of self-compassion – I fight to accept and accommodate the unkindness of others, but am totally unforgiving of any weakness in myself.

Tomorrow’s menu:

  • Stories of my childhood, my parents’ divorce, and learning to nurture and manipulate,
  • Making Bangkok my second home, being an alien, and missing Melbourne,
  • served with a generous side of self-compassion, self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness

Dessert à la Cynthia:

I’m been thinking about writing my first post from Bangkok for a long while. However, the past month has been a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and in trying to avoid writing solely self-critical or negative posts, I’ve been waiting for my mood to improve; which, though good for my own sanity, is perhaps not so helpful with attempts to post regularly. In any case, my mood has been improving, and I’ve already drafted the follow up post for later this week (probably not tomorrow, I lied). As always, thanks for reading 🙂

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