By Refuge Intern Corey Springer
“I don’t have time to take care of myself.”
It’s a statement spoken far too often by individuals who have found themselves swimming in a sea of responsibilities where they feel they are drowning.
“I feel selfish when I focus on my own needs,” others say.
Many people have never thought about the effects of their self-neglect on others. When we don’t charge ourselves with plenty of life-giving resources, we cannot realistically expect to have enough stamina to fulfill our responsibilities or have anything to offer others. So what does it look like to provide ourselves with life-giving resources?
Developing our self-compassion can be the first step in that direction. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., describes self-compassion as being “no different than having compassion for others.” Neff writes, “First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering [. . .] Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to ‘suffer with’).”
When we show compassion toward ourselves, we remain mindful about our feelings of hurt and pain as we face difficulties. We can choose to take small moments to ask ourselves how we can comfort and care for ourselves. Neff asserts, “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?”
It only takes five minutes to begin developing our self-compassion. One of the exercises found on Neff’s website begins with pausing to identify a factor that is currently causing you stress. Try to determine where your body is responding to the stressor. Next, remind yourself, “This is a moment of suffering. This hurts. This is stress.” After being mindful, comfort yourself with the reminder that other people feel this way, too, and that you’re not suffering alone. We all struggle. At the end of the exercise, Neff encourages us to ask, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?”
It only takes a few minutes to pause and be mindful of how we are feeling, to admit it to ourselves, and to show ourselves comfort and compassion as we remember we do not suffer alone. When we are able to give ourselves grace and love, we will feel revitalized and empowered instead of discouraged and broken. When we are revitalized and empowered, we can face our responsibilities more confidently and pour out grace and love to those around us.
*Credit: Kristin Neff, Ph.D., self-compassion.org
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