In our April conversation, our community came together to think deeply about self-compassion.
What we found was inspiring. Without knowing, our community was already practising what the research tells us are core elements of self-compassion.
We all struggled with self-compassion, even when our job was researching it!
We found it easy to say unkind things to ourselves that we'd never say to a friend. Not having a job, living alone, and seeing friends move on to a different chapter than us, all made it difficult for us to practise self-compassion.
In sharing our experiences, we recognised that pain and suffering – however they look and feel like to us as individuals – are what unite us as human beings. We all struggle and suffer at some point or another.
Tapping into this connectivity felt especially important in our COVID19 world. Even though some of us were anxious about not having a job or not being able to spend time with loved ones, we felt less alone because others were going through the same thing at the same time.
By connecting our own suffering with the shared human experience, we could elevate ourselves from our own pain and gain clarity in a time of deep uncertainty.
We acknowledged that we could still grow, wherever we are, and however we were feeling. That it was ok to not be there yet.
This meant recognising and acknowledging our own difficult feelings before looking outwards. That sometimes, self-compassion meant accepting our own limitations rather than pushing ahead or striving to “fix” things.
And importantly, maintaining a sense of perspective over the situation, even when we are unsuccessful.
We practised together, using an example where we had been asked to stay back and help when we had no energy left to give.
Saying "no" outright was tough. The sense of shame, of being perceived as not “doing enough”, was very strong amongst our group. We feared being labelled a "jerk" or "bitch" if we asserted our own needs. Especially if we were a woman.
We knew that this self-directed criticism was unhelpful and held us back from looking after ourselves. By practising together, we went from an overly apologetic response that was laden with self-judgement, frustration and shame, to one where we felt more worthy, recognised, understood and cared for.
In our conversation, we were also mindful of being the one asking for help in this scenario. Here, self-kindness could be to acknowledge the discomfort in waiting and holding back a little while, to give others the chance to respond to our needs when they are able and ready.
We walked away knowing that self-kindness required practice and patience and felt empowered to try it in small and gentle ways.
One participant's experience captured all three elements of self-compassion. She had been struggling with a work colleague's behaviour and discussed it with them. After their conversation, she felt disconnected and came away feeling indignant and angry.
While she wanted to confront them about it, for some reason, this time around, she decided to "sit" with her difficult emotions (mindfulness). She thought about why she was upset. She also thought about how her colleague might have been feeling; what could explain their behaviour (common humanity). Only when she was ready and had greater perspective on how she was feeling (self-kindness), did she talk to him.
The effect was immediate. From that moment on, her relationship with her colleague, and more importantly, herself, changed for the better.
For us at CBBC, two acts of compassion stand out to us in this story. Our participant showed compassion to herself and her colleague. Her colleague reciprocated and was inspired to change to become their more compassionate self.
It is in these small acts of compassion, to ourselves and others, that we can look outwards, and create the flourishing communities we all deserve.
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Graphics by Farah Beaini.
Flower image: Lerkrat Tangsri on Pexels
Tree image: Juhasz Imre on Pexels