Gem of the Week: A Little Less Fixin' & A Lot More Lovin'
“Instead of seeing ourselves as a problem to be fixed, self-kindness allows us to see ourselves as valuable human beings who are worthy of care,” ~Kristin Neff
One of my all-time favorite books is “Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind; Self-Compassion,” by Kristin Neff, Ph.d. (I highly, highly recommend this book.) Her powerful research and her ability to explain how self-compassion affects our everyday lives is life altering.
Neff says that the power of self-compassion is not just an idea----“some feel-good but insubstantial notion that doesn’t really change anything. It’s very real.” When we soothe our own pain, we release a hormone called oxytocin. Increased levels of oxytocin strongly increases feelings of trust, calm, safety, generosity, and connectedness and also facilitate the ability to feel warmth and compassion for ourselves. It reduces fear and anxiety and can counteract the increased blood pressure and cortisol associated with stress.
Self-criticism has a very different effect on our body. It releases the hormone cortisol. Over time increased cortisol levels lead to depression by depleting various neurotransmitters involved in the ability to experience pleasure.
According to Neff, there is also neurological evidence showing that self-compassion and self-criticism operate quite differently in terms of brain function. Self-criticism is associated with the part of the brain that involves error processing and problem solving. Being kind and reassuring toward oneself is associated with the areas of the brain associated with positive emotions and compassion. “Instead of seeing ourselves as a problem to be fixed, self-kindness allows us to see ourselves as valuable human beings who are worthy of care,” claims Neff.
We don’t have to wait until we are perfect, until life goes exactly as we want it to. We don’t need others to respond with care and compassion in order to feel worthy of love. We don’t need to look outside ourselves for the acceptance and security we crave. This is not to say that we don’t need other people. Of course we do. "But who is in the best position to know how you really feel underneath that cheerful façade? Who is most likely to know the full extent of the pain and fear you face, to know what you need most? Who is the only person in your life who is available 24/7 to provide you with care and kindness?," asks Neff. You!
The habit of self-compassion, gives us the opportunity to experience love and tenderness from within. Neff says, “No matter how difficult things get, we can always wrap our torn and tattered selves in our own soft embrace. We can soothe and comfort our own pain, just as a child is soothed and comforted by her mother’s arms.”
Neff gives several practices in her book that enable self-compassion. For me personally, beginning my day by opening my heart to Divine Love, if only for 10-15 minutes, enables me to practice self-compassion throughout the day with greater ease.
The more we practice compassion towards ourselves and others, the stronger it becomes and benefits all areas of our lives.
My wish for you is that you are so gentle, kind, and self-nurturing to yourself that you fully realize your precious uniqueness and invaluable worth in order to bask in your individual goodness; experiencing a life of more joy, peace, harmony and love.
Affirmation: I am gentle and kind to myself. I am worthy of love. I self-nurture myself each day. I am compassionate to myself and others.
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