Compassion towards others is something that most of us feel innately. We are hardwired for it. But, what about compassion towards ourselves? What happens when we show ourselves the same kindness, understanding, and love?
In this blog, we break down my discussion from my Therapy Chat Podcast, Episode 311. We take a look at what self-compassion is while exploring the different types of self-compassion.
What is Self Compassion?
Self Compassion is simply compassion turned inward. It’s this kind of sense of, “I care. I want to help in some way.” And so, we naturally do that for others. But, I think we evolved to become compassionate to others. This way, it would pass down in our DNA to our kids who survived. However, it’s not so natural to do it for ourselves.
One way to think of self-compassion is doing a “u-turn” to be kind to yourself. When you take that turn, you give yourself the same kindness, support, and care you naturally give to those we care about. Plus, when you give yourself more compassion and understanding, you will be able to be more compassionate towards others. It will be easier to care for other people and understand what drives their behavior.
This is especially important in professions that deal with the public—healthcare workers, trauma therapists, teachers, retail workers, etc. We find that when you increase your self-compassion, it increases your ability to give to others. But, it also allows you to sustain giving to others without burning out. So, it provides this sense of resilience.
Types of Self Compassion
Now that we know what self-compassion is let’s explore the different types of self-compassion. These two different types are described as the yin and yang of self-compassion. You need both to balance. They are fierce self-compassion and tender self-compassion.
Tender self-compassion is the “Yin” of self-compassion. Yin is traditionally a soft, yielding, tender energy of life. It’s about acceptance and tenderness. So, with tender self-compassion, we’re accepting of ourselves. We are soothing and comforting ourselves like we would a friend or a loved one.
Tender self-compassion is soft and yielding because we all have vulnerable spots. We’re not perfect, and we will make mistakes. So, having this softness and tenderness with ourselves is important when we need it the most.
Here are some examples of tender self-compassion:
- Being gentle with yourself when you make a mistake
- Talking to yourself in a kind and understanding way
- Allowing yourself to feel your emotions without judgment
- Practicing self-care
Fierce self-compassion is the “yang” of self-compassion. Yang is more of the active action-oriented, powerful energy of life. Or it’s otherwise known as the “dark” energy. So, with fierce self-compassion, we’re not accepting of ourselves but taking action. We’re challenging and confronting ourselves to do better. It helps us be assertive because we’re not just accepting things the way they are. We want to make a change.
Here are some examples of fierce self-compassion:
- Setting boundaries with yourself
- Telling yourself “no.”
- Motivating yourself to make a change
- Challenging your negative self-talk
However, we need both to be healthy and whole.
It can be challenging to navigate self-compassion in our society because we have socialized standards for certain genders. For example, it’s the expectation that women are allowed to be tender and compassionate but not fierce. But, without enough fierceness, self-compassion’s acceptance and tenderness become complacency.
Whereas men are allowed to be fierce. But, if they’re tender, then they’re considered weak. But, without the tenderness of self-compassion, the fierceness becomes aggression. So, it’s important to have both aspects of being well balanced. Otherwise, it can lead to problems.
How is Self Compassion Beneficial?
Self-compassion has many benefits. However, people may not like us quite as much if we’re fierce and stand up for ourselves after practicing fierce self-compassion. Or if we stop saying yes to everything people want. But, self-compassion makes you less dependent on other people’s approval. You’re giving and taking approval from yourself. You don’t need to look for it from others as much.
Doing this gives you a lot of power and self-compassion. It’s like a superpower that’s in your back pocket. For example, we should all be like the “mama bear” metaphor. Where the mother is the ideal gentle, nurturing, accepting energy. But, the bear part is the fierce self-compassion. Fierce mama bear. No one is more fierce than a mama bear whose cubs are being threatened.
And we all have that inside of us.
Sometimes it comes out with our children. We allow it to come out in that context. We let ourselves harness kindness, love, and fierceness to protect our children. But, we can also use it to protect and love ourselves. Just like the mama bear protects her cubs, we can do the same for ourselves.
How to Develop Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is a practice. So, it’s something you need to do consciously and practice. You may even get it wrong at some points, but then you can use the tender self-compassion. You’ll be able to tell yourself, “It’s okay to get it wrong. Everyone gets it wrong sometimes.” then you can tell yourself you just need to keep trying because self-compassion, tender and fierce, takes practice.
Not only does it take practice, but it’s a path. It’s a process.
It’s not like you ever arrive at some destination, and then have everything together. You will continue to make mistakes, but this way you have opportunities to access both your fierce and tender energy. It’s will help you become stronger, more capable, and get through difficult situations more easily.
It starts to become more natural when you practice giving yourself compassion.
Even things like standing up for yourself and being willing to take risks will come more naturally. These things can be scary. But, when you know if the person rejects you that it will be okay because you’re there for yourself. It gives you more ability and confidence to take more risks.
Find a Trauma Therapist Near Me
Developing self-compassion can be difficult if you’re not sure where to start or what steps to take. Working with a trauma therapist can help you develop a self-compassion practice that works for you. And help process any trauma you may have experienced. If you’re considering therapy, you can find an experienced trauma therapist near you by clicking here.
Therapy Chat Podcast
If after reading this blog you’re interested in learning more about Self-Compassion, you may want to check out our Therapy Chat Podcast. In the podcast, I cover topics where we focus on “the bottom-up” approaches to trauma. Additionally, our Trauma Chat Podcast has great episodes about trauma, too. In one episode, I even talk about attachment styles and how they appear in our lives.
Podcasts and blogs give you the power and knowledge to work through difficult experiences but are not a replacement for therapy. They can also be useful resources for supplemental knowledge or when looking for a therapist. For many people, it can also be helpful to learn more about trauma while in therapy to get a deeper understanding of their experience. We hope that this information is helpful to you. Healing is possible, and you deserve it.