Finding Self-Compassion

Small changes seem to bring BIG changes if we can just persist and practice enough…

It is amazing to me when things start settling in – first we understand a concept with our minds, and then over time as we practice,  we understand it deeply with our hearts – and then the real change happens…   In my experience real change happens faster when we involve the right side of our brain and our subconscious and art journal / sketch / doodle responses and bring in visualisations / meditations.  Slowly for me have I been learning self-compassion…


I’ve been lucky this year to do Brene Brown’s Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course and Kristin Neff & Brene Brown’s Self-Compassion course- both online: and Tara Brach & Jack Kornfiled’s incredibly in depth Power Of Awareness online mindfulness course where self-compassion is a key component…

We all have that inner critic, that war within ourselves…sometimes without us even being aware of it. The expectations we place on ourselves can be unrealistic and unachievable and we can be constantly beating ourselves up for not being better, perfect…

When I find myself getting highly critical of my loved ones then I know I’m being even more critical of myself!  Kristin Neff talks about how we are so much kinder and more compassionate to a best friend or child than we are to ourselves in the same situation yet it is very hard to express authentic compassion to others if we cannot express it to ourselves.

For me the journey of reducing this intense self-criticism began when I first became a Mum almost 18 years ago and had post natal depression.   I needed to let go of the ‘perfect’ should messages and give myself permission to have a messy house, look messy and have a messy garden and be tired and grumpy sometimes!   Since then it’s like I’ve needed to peel back the layers – uncovering other aspects of being too harsh on myself that I didn’t even know were there!

In the Gifts Of Imperfection Art Journalling course a powerful exercise is to find photos of your younger self and write down messages of self-compassion…it was very healing to find teenage photos and remember all of the angst and instead write with empathy, understanding, kindness and gentleness…as you would to your own child who is struggling.

Then in Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion course I learned that there are 3 core components to self-compassion:

  1. Mindfully notice that you are at war with yourself
  2. Realise our common humanity – we are ALL imperfect, we are all struggling on some level, we are all on a journey
  3. Offer words of kindness, and explore how to actively nurture yourself…

If you think about it this is what we would offer a friend or a child – we would

  1. Notice they are struggling
  2. Empathise and offer that reassurance – ‘it can be difficult’
  3. Offer words of kindness and give a little nurturing

As Brene Brown puts it when we are truly compassionate for another human being it brings out our best selves – yet often the same scenario for ourselves and we treat ourselves worse than anyone else!!  We would never say to someone else what can go through our own minds!

So I have been art journaling and reading and meditating on this topic for a few months now…practicing….and then just recently I was at war with myself.   I had good intentions to change my life for the better but my inner critic was LOUDLY saying ‘give up, it’s not worth it, you don’t have the will power, you’re not strong enough’ And the debate in my head was so unpleasant I wanted to give up JUST to silence the inner critic.

But then I remembered – self-compassion! I noticed and labelled what was going on….’I’m at war with myself’ – just doing that made it a little easier to breathe…then I was able to place my hand over my heart and breathe into the feeling and recognise…’gee it’s tough sometimes to be human, to have all these choices, to make a change for better’….then I remembered times in my past where it has taken at least a year to make one small change to the point that I can easily do it daily … and I was able to offer some kind reassuring words…

And just that small moment – resonated through my life to be a BIG shift – all week it was easier to make the change, all week I was kinder to myself…  So it took awhile for the info to go from head level to heart level but when it did – it was a beautiful moment!

I’m wondering if you have experienced something similar?  Or if you would like more self-compassion in your life?

I’m excited that we’ll be reading and discussing Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff as part of our online Mindfulness Book Club in February 2017.   We’ll also practice some self-compassion exercises and if you live in Port Macquarie then we’ll meet in person to discuss and practice… I’m really looking forward to it!


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Mindful Seeing

eye spy 2

If you ask your brain a question – it has to seek the answer – so one of the most powerful ways we can bring our minds back to the present moment is to ask it a question about what it can see. Try it out, have a stretch, take a breath, here are 5 questions related to seeing- can you answer them?

1. How many shades of green can you see right now?
2. Can you find 5 different colours of grey in the clouds / blue in the sky?
3. How many different leaf shapes can you see out your window?
4. What do the lines on the palm of your hand really look like?
5. What feature do you love most on a loved one’s hand / face?
6. Can you find a new feature on your child’s face / hand you haven’t seen before?

And while you were answering those questions was it possible to be caught up in the intensity of planning, remembering, feeling, to do lists?

This is one of the most simple mindfulness strategies – and it is also one we can completely forget to do – we can move through the world with ‘blinkers’ on…

Our brains cannot take in every detail in any moment – so we program them unconsciously to only see what we ‘want’ to see. If we are focussed in on what a terrible day it is – then we will see evidence for this. If we are focussed in on how we ‘stuffed’ up or we’re not good enough- then we will see evidence for this. If we are in love then the world literally looks rose coloured and we will only see evidence of how beautiful the world is.

With mindfulness, we can interrupt our thinking, we can provide a pause – stretch, breathe and ask our mind- ‘what are 5 things you can see right now?’ and then choose whether to dive right back in to the previous thinking program or to reprogram our brain what we will concentrate on right now.

This is perfect for when we are feeling annoyed/irritated with someone. We can choose to keep finding evidence for this or we can switch focus to find and notice the neutral or positive things that person is doing! Just noticing inside ourselves the positives for that other person – can change what they do and how they relate to us!!!

Give it a go – which one of the questions above is your favourite? Which one will you use this week? Have you got a different question you would like to share?