If you drive yourself hard at work, athletics or school, there’s a chance that you don’t know how to have compassion for yourself.  You might find yourself competing with others to prove to yourself that you’re great at…whatever.  If you don’t get the raise or new job you really thought you deserved, you might not be able to find compassion for yourself.

It’s not unusual in this culture (or many cultures) to not have the skills in self compassion. Or if your parents weren’t very compassionate for themselves, or you, how would you know that not only did you need compassion, but require it to be a healthy and balanced adult?

I noticed that I lacked self compassion after my 2nd heart attack.  I felt like a failure.  Wasn’t I doing everything possible to hold off this attack?  Was it that extra bit of dairy that I had–what kind of vegan sneaks a piece of cheese?  The first heart attack seemed like a fluke, but the ‘widowmaker’?  Did I deserve it somehow?  It’s been easy having compassion for others, including the animal world.  But for me?  Not so much.

Damaging my heart muscle forced me to change.  I knew that I’d been avoiding a commitment to mindfulness and meditation because it seemed like a last ditch effort for change, rather than some romantic awakening.  Until I started researching and discovered that the science of compassion and self compassion was deep as well as broad.

Dr. Kristen Neff is an expert in this research and writes on her website:

Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?

Ooops.  That describes me.  It’s learned behavior.  First trying to prove myself to my parents and teachers, then trying to prove things to myself.  And as Dr. Neff clearly states, this isn’t the same thing as self-esteem, which I confused with this new concept.  Click over to her site to learn more.

Test your own skills in self-compassion. http://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/

Or step into the world of mindfulness and self-compassion by trying a few exercises.  http://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises