how self-compassion changed my life

I’m on my fifth year of my yoga practice. My first class was at 6 am, at my gym before work. As I was laying down for my first savasana, I felt an enormous release, a relief and relaxation I hadn’t felt before.  I was hooked.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had practiced self-compassion for the first time. Sounds crazy, right?

In the last year of my practice, I’ve noticed that we as a society value self esteem and compassion towards others. But it was discovering self-compassion that unlocked the lustrous gem of my True Self and led to feeling content and happy and connected with the world. So what is self compassion?

image credit:
  1. Using positive self-talk. Talking to yourself as you would someone you love.
  2. Noticing similarities in your experiences and others’ experiences. The “hey, we’re not so different, you and I” feeling.
  3. Recognizing your thoughts and emotions do not define you. Just because you messed up doesn’t make You (your True Self) a failure, nor does having angry thoughts make You an angry person.

How is that different from self-esteem? This Atlantic article explains it well. Basically, self-esteem depends on your own success (or opinion of yourself) in comparison to others, while self-compassion is the unconditional loving kindness and friendliness towards yourself. There’s even a Buddhist term for this: maitri.

How did yoga help transition my perspective from self-esteem to self-compassion? By learning to meet me where I am today. Each yoga practice is different: my body, mind, and emotions can change a lot from one day to the next! Sometimes I feel like I’m a different person! But by noticing that these changes are like the weather: unpredictable and ever changing and out of my control, I let go of trying to control it. And I realized that those things don’t define who I am. They’re just part of my experience.

I’ll leave you with a loving-kindness meditation that I tried recently. It helped me really focus on and experience self-compassion.

May I be well.

May I be filled with loving kindness.

May I be peaceFULL and at ease.

May I be happy.

Simply repeat these phrases to yourself during your meditation practice, or even on the go — while you’re commuting to or from work! Happy Friday!

image credit: Elisha Goldstein



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