Thursday, September 22, 2011

Self-Compassion versus Self-Esteem

Dr. Kristen Neff recently published a book about self-compassion, which is her research specialty as a psychologist. Self-esteem, which is promoted in many schools throughout the United States, is comparison-based and fear-based. It emphasizes that we need to be better than others to be valued. It assumes that we need to be smarter, more attractive, more successful that others, a thinking pattern that can foster anxiety and depression if we don't believe we're good enough or narcissism and selfishness if we assume we're better than others.

Self-compassion is love-based, an acceptance and appreciation for ourselves just the way we, divine children of God, are. When we have self-compassion, we treat ourselves with the same kindness and understanding that we would treat a dear friend. We seek to love ourselves as unconditionally as God loves us. Sharon Salzberg says, "Loving ourselves points us to capacities of resilence, compassion,and understanding within that are simply part of being alive."

Dr. Neff explains that self-compassion has three components:

Self-kindness. When we are gentle and patient with ourselves, we accept the fact that we won't always have the life experiences we would choose and we won't always be perfect in every situation. This simple but profound change in our thinking patterns can enhance our inner peace.

Common humanity. When we realize that all people suffer and experience sorrow and difficulties at times, we discover that we are not alone. We are consequently less judgmental of our personal mistakes and find it easier to forgive ourselves and others when we or they are less than perfect.

Mindfulness. When we are mindful, we recognize our negative emotions, feel them, and then allow ourselves to release them so that they are neither suppressed or exaggerated. As we become aware of the verbal chatter we listen to in our minds, we can also notice the physical results of our thinking. For example, fearful thinking may produce tension in our necks, backs, or shoulders. When we allow ourselves to process our fears, we can then work on releasing the tension in our bodies and minds through meditation and mindfulness.

Dr. Neff's book is a ground-breaking work in self-compassion, which is an important component of peace. She writes, "Self-compassion has the power to....transmute suffering into joy. By changing the way we relate to our own imperfection and pain, we can actually change our experience of living. Try as we may, we can't control life so that it is exactly as we want it to...yet when we wrap our suffering in the cocoon of compassion, something new emerges. Some wonderful, exquisite, beautiful."

&copy Carol Brown

Monday, September 19, 2011

Peace and Self-Compassion

Sometimes we are kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Many of us are more forgiving and compassionate to others than we are to ourselves. When we continually give to others without caring for ourselves, we may experience burn out or even severe depression.

So how to we show self-compassion without becoming a narcissist? Here are a few ways that can help:

• Remember that you are a beloved child of God, and that He loves you just the way you are. Just as a parent loves their children unconditionally, God loves us with a pure and perfect love. He cares about us more than we can comprehend. He loved you—individually—enough to die for you, that you might live forever with Him if you choose to love and follow Him.

• Learn to distinguish between guilt and shame. Guilt motivates us to turn away from sin and turn towards God. Shame locks us in fear that we aren’t good enough, beautiful enough, or capable enough—even when we are doing our best. Dr. Brene Brown writes: “Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.” Seek to eliminate shameful thoughts from your mind and replace them with thoughts of gratitude and love.

• Celebrate your talents and divine worth. Remember that God created you in His image and that you are amazing just the way you are. No one in the world has your abilities and gifts. As you cultivate your talents and share them with others, you will experience inner peace. With that peace, we can become an instrument in healing the world.

Today, do something kind for yourself. In the process, you will be energied to show compassion for others. Remember, God asks us to love others as we love ourselves--not instead of loving ourselves.

The Dalai Lama, in his book How to Be Compassionate, says: "As we become nicer human beings, our neighbors, friends, parents, spouses, and children will experience less anger, prompting them to become more warm-hearted, compassionate, and harmonious. The very atmosphere becomes happier, which even promotes good health. This is the way to change the world."