Self-Compassion During Difficult Times

We Need to be Kind to Ourselves During Difficult Times

Three weeks ago I had the joy of sharing my recent trip to our son’s wedding, made possible by the generosity of others. During my trip to Houston I met with a friend of mine, Jennifer Christian, who is also a counselor. She interviewed me for her podcast about being compassionate with ourselves as we go through difficult times.

You can listen to the interview below:

Going Through Difficult Times

 

Jennifer asked me to share about my health challenges in the last four years, how my life has changed, and my commitment to be a good friend to myself as I walk this difficult journey.

Learning About Self-Compassion

I first learned about the importance of self-compassion in my work counseling clients for 30 years.  They were brave and courageous as they worked through current or past painful experiences. Part of their healing was learning to be compassionate with themselves, as they worked through past or current issues.

What they went through damaged their relationship with themselves. They didn’t know how to be kind to themselves, care for themselves, and believed negative messages about themselves.

I found that as my clients practiced self-compassion, they got better faster, and the healing would last because when they stopped counseling, they had a good friend on the inside to walk through life with.

Even when things are really hard, you can be a friend to yourself. Click To Tweet

After I got the call from doctor that I had breast cancer, I cried for a while, prayed, and said out loud, “I’m going to be a good friend to myself through this process.” I decided since I had to go through this difficult process, I may as well be a good friend to myself. I said it again when diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis a year later.

Accepting Help

I decided that when others offered help, I would accept it. I said, “yes” when people offered to bring meals, drive me to chemotherapy or do errands for me. I learned that asking for help is part of being kind to yourself.

Asking for help can be a challenge:

  • For some, asking for help may feel like weakness. We may try to keep doing everything ourselves, even when it is harmful to us.
  • Others may resist asking for help because it breaks their layer of denial, causing them to face the severity of the difficulties they are dealing with.
  • We may be used to helping others, but are not used to accepting help for ourselves.
  • And for others, help is welcomed and accepted.
No matter what, asking for help takes time to get used to. Click To Tweet

This is true for me. Even now, I give myself pep talks, telling myself that asking for help is a way of being kind to myself and makes my life easier. I also remind myself that allowing others to help me benefits them, too.

Toward the end of the podcast Jennifer shares about her experience as a caregiver, as she helps her teenage daughter cope with a chronic illness. It is an uplifting conversation about how asking for help doesn’t only help ourselves, but is a blessing to those giving, as well.

Difficulty Applying Self-Compassion

Some of my clients felt they couldn’t be compassionate with themselves because what they were going through was partly their fault, even if this was untrue.

It doesn’t matter if we’re not perfect, are having trouble adjusting to life’s challenges, or struggle to keep going. No matter what, we deserve kindness, compassion, grace, and understanding. No one gets through life without struggling or making mistakes. We are human and are learning as we go.

Every new challenge results in a learning curve — whether it is dealing with a chronic illness, having financial difficulties, dealing with a child who is struggling, or helping a parent with Alzheimer’s. Each challenge is new to us, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to know how to do things we’ve never done before.

When we are hard on ourselves for being imperfect human beings we then have two problems…the original one we started with, and being hard on ourselves for not knowing how to handle it.

Words of Self-Compassion

Here’s what I might say to myself if I notice I’m being hard on myself,

“I’m not bad for struggling. It feels like I should have done something differently — maybe so, but probably not. I’m grieving such a terrible diagnosis, and doing the best I can. There is so much to handle with tests, doctor visits, getting used to oxygen and medications. I’m not wrong for struggling with a difficult situation. Anyone would. I can be kind to myself, and get the help and support I need to get through this.”

Self-Compassion During Difficult Times www.kimfredrickson.comFor me personally, practicing self-compassion has really helped me negotiate this very difficult journey. I’m with myself 100% of the time. The impact of my own words as well as the way I care for myself, is far more influential than what anyone else does, because I’m with myself all of the time.

During really difficult times like these, we need one another and a compassionate relationship with ourselves. Click here if you’d like some resources to build a compassionate relationship with yourself.

I’d love to hear from you. What made sense or stood out to you? Do you have difficulty being compassionate with yourself? If so, when is it the hardest? Is it hard to ask for help? What types of help from others have made the biggest difference to you? How have you grown in your ability to be compassionate with yourself during difficult times?

Please share this post with anyone you feel could benefit, or on social media. We’re in this together…

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3 thoughts on “Self-Compassion During Difficult Times

  1. “What made sense or stood out to you?” . . .It just makes so, so much sense that when we are in difficult times NOT being a compassionate/good friend makes everything much more difficult. Once we are honest about our feelings, we can invite ourselves to consider alternative modes of viewing our pain and maybe see that releasing our grip on anger and resentment can actually be an act of self-compassion? I see it so clearly at times but consistently doing it. . . .God have mercy on my soul!

    “Do you have difficulty being compassionate with yourself? If so, when is it the hardest?” . . . Yes, just admitting I am weak and need help. I try to remember, —Wow, I have been criticizing myself for years and it hasn’t worked. At least trying to approve of myself is a more hopeful approach. The hardest, for me, is leaving behind that critical part of myself. —And I can see it clearly: We must die to one life before we can enter another.

    “Is it hard to ask for help?” Yes, it is so hard but it clearly helps break the “layer of denial” and face the issues and yes, it does feel like weakness. It is so much easier to help then be helped. I guess because it feeds our ego when we are helping not receiving.

    “How have you grown in your ability to be compassionate with yourself during difficult times?” . . . .Some rare times I surprise myself with compassion . . . .but, honestly, do I have a caring, unconditionally loving best friend in myself? The real answer has got to be “No.” So then I think, I will not find the solution to my self-damage until I address this serious, life-threatening absence of self-compassion. Self-compassion-love is not a dinner mint. Self-compassion-love really matters. Self-compassion-love saves our lives. With loving kindness, and self-compassion, I can begin to let go of my expectations about how my life and those I love should be. . . . .And you know what, this is my theory: It is just as time consuming and difficult to learn to accept myself (self-love; self-compassion, et.al.) as it is to pretend to be someone else. The only difference is that with self-acceptance, one day, maybe, . . .maybe it’s not hard anymore? . . .So here is the truth: I have small moments of self-compassion that sometimes change my entire day. But I need strings of such moments so it will change the course of my life.

  2. Love your processing Aleea! I love your perspective,

    “And you know what, this is my theory: It is just as time consuming and difficult to learn to accept myself (self-love; self-compassion, et.al.) as it is to pretend to be someone else. The only difference is that with self-acceptance, one day, maybe, . . .maybe it’s not hard anymore? . . .So here is the truth: I have small moments of self-compassion that sometimes change my entire day. But I need strings of such moments so it will change the course of my life.”

    So true!!!

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