Self Compassion Is The Key To A Happy & Healthy Life

Dr. Kristin Neff, who focuses on educational psychology, defines self-compassion as “extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.”

The brain is one of the most important human body organs. It is quintessential and at the epicenter of our every day lives.

One summer mid-90s , along with my two sisters, I was signed up to be part of a basketball camp at our local middle school. Out of 50 some kids that were part of the camp, the three of us were the only girls. I honestly don’t remember any of the specifics I learned during my time there. Aside from too many water breaks to count, what stands out the most was verbal bullying and being singled out for being one of three girls, where primarily the boys outnumbered the girls, and called derogatory names. I remember being so hurt by those words (the person saying them must have been pretty hurt as well, at the time though), all I could do put it all to the back-burner and hope for a better day at basketball camp the next day and thereafter, however the circumstances went unchanged. I felt inadequate and defenseless at the time.

I never spoke with a coach or anyone else that week about the weeks events, perhaps I didn’t know how even approach that topic to someone else, because I felt embarrassed or less of a person for what took place during the week, or I was afraid of the ramifications of telling adult supervisor everything. I needed someone to tell me it was going to be okay (and at the same time had someone ask the person doing the hurting if they were okay. Had my temporal lobe been soothed and reassured, perhaps I would been taught to have more self compassion then and for future life challenges. I haven’t thought about this experience in a long time, most likely to compartmentalize past experiences, in order to move forward and let new ones in (something I still try to manage today). On a side note, with over 20 years now since that happened, I’d like to think we are seeing a positive movement towards change.

It was the Fall of 1995, and my parents made the decision our family would move to a new house, and school district. I started 5th grade at a new school, and from that day after, I struggled with having a sense of belonging until after high school graduation. I attended school, where change, new students and any form diversity seemed unacceptable and alien, it’s my personal experience with attending a small town school from 5th grade through 12th grade. In a melting pot of a world, a Rotary Exchange Program was used to help create diversity and have others learn about the American culture. Don’t get me wrong, there were aspects I appreciated about the school system as a whole.

It has been often said and researched that we are products of our own environments. It is truly an intriguing fact. If I calculate all of my experiences (environments) thus far, I am the sum value of all of those combined. Mind-boggling, stress-inducing or validating? It could go in either of the three directions, I’m certain.

In any event, I have always had tongue-twisting last name, and my personality type an extroverted introvert. For a long time, I felt like I was made fun of quite a bit, and often didn’t want to go to school because of it, but didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Later learning, it was other people’s own insecurities that were being projected on to me. I barely talked about everything that went on and couldn’t find the words to even verbalize it, but mentally and emotionally, I was a mess during that time. I desperately needed validation either from someone else or an affirmation say “ I think you’re so cool,” and“ Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Compliments, compassion and kindness growing up and in adulthood are three of the best things to hold on to.

A few years later, I was in middle school. I was in my 7th grade Social Studies Class and the teacher I had at the time, needed a student to run an errand to the the main floor school office. I quickly raised my hand and ran to the office to complete the task, anything for a healthy break from the classroom. On my way to the office, I tripped over my own shoes and tumbled down a flight of stairs, making what seemed to be the loudest sound in the hall way. I was wearing those tan colored shoes, that almost looked like construction boots, but for girls. I landed at the bottom of the set of stairs, where a collection students and teachers,came out of their classrooms, like rubberneckers, asking ever so briefly what happened.

I ended up banging up my elbow, however felt more startled and embarrassed then anything else. In my mind, I worried about what the other kids would think of me, and if they would talk behind my back. Was I a failure for falling down a flight of stairs? Was I a klutz? Or a walking disaster? I was hurt in different ways, but didn’t know how to cope. I ended up making it to the office later on. I bandaged myself up, and eventually returned to class , never to talk about what happened again (until this blog).

In hindsight though, if an adult in charge set me aside “Everything okay? You tripped and missed a stepped and tumbled down the stairs. You’re life is going to be full of ups and downs, and this is one of them. It is going to be okay. Would you like to talk about it?” My world then would have gotten a bit brighter, more calm, centered, swan-like. I would have felt more at ease, teaching my future self about the importance of self-compassion. If I look closely enough on my right elbow, I can still see the scar from when I fell all those years ago. Our scars always have stories to tell.

My grandfather passed away in 2002, and my grandmother in 2009, I can remember both days pretty vividly. I loved them both dearly, both in different ways. I had a certain affection for each of them, something I believe my Mom passed on to my sisters and I. In both cases, I didn’t know how to handle a loved one passing away, as the cycle of life was still something I am always trying to fully grasp. I knew I was dealing with a multitude of feelings. I ended up keeping to myself when my grandfather passed away, I didn’t really know what to say or how to manage my emotions. I was 17 then and aside from one other relative I didn’t know how to face death when it came knocking at a relative’s door, it hit so close to my beating heart. Our lives come at us quickly, and when someone else passes away it’s even more difficult because it’s constant reminder that our lives are finite and we’ll have to face the same knock at our door somewhere in our futures. To me, that’s a stressful thought, that looms around my mind at times.

I was on the cusp of 24 when my grandmother passed away, I did my best to cultivate an endearing relationship with her, when she lived at home and when she lived in assisted living. When she passed away in early October of 2009, to memorialize her life and my memories of her, to share with others and to help me cope in my own way, I wrote a page full of detailed memories I had with her. She always provided me with a fresh perspective on any topic we talked about on any given day.

In between my cousin passed away in tragic car accident in early December 2007, and my Aunt from cancer in 2012. Two others, I love unconditionally as well.

I was learning quickly about the fragility and brevity of life, while trying to find a balance of how to manage my ever-present emotions and move forward at the same time. I balanced some of my emotions by asking other family members effected by loved ones passing away, about how they were doing themselves and if they were doing okay. Knowing I was connecting with someone else on an emotional level, even if I got a layered yet complex “ I’m okay,” response I still felt like I was somehow helping to heal the emptiness that fill our lives.

My last year in college I dated I guy I had met over the summer. I thought he was a dynamic person. He owned his own motorcycle, a Ford Crown Victoria (police car style), had pet snakes, played Wii video games, and worked at Best Buy and down to earth room mates. I was taking a summer history class and about to start my senior year of college, and I had recently bought a Razor phone and thought I was on trend. He was more extroverted then me, and I thought that quality provided a lot of balance for both of us.

After about a year of dating, he called it quits on the two of us dating. I was heartbroken and wanted to make it work, but that wasn’t in my favor. I hid how I felt by working all the time, as distance from negative things that happen, often helps the heart heal.

Despite the distance from what happened, I still felt that I wasn’t good enough, I was in shock and denial, lonely, and angry. I talked to two of my closest friends about the breakup after it took place, and then went on my way. After that, I kept to myself about the angst I was feeling. Compassion for myself could have been my best friend at that time, but I busied myself with other things, to detract from what actually happened and how I felt.

It was February 8th, 2013, one of the coldest days of Winter and I spun out on the snowy and icy hill (where no snow plow or salt had been used in hours) in another family members car, back of the going first into the wooded area on the side of the road, totaling the car. I was a wreck of emotions. I was first startled, then anxious, and then speechless, and panicked. I had angels there that day, no other people or cars were involved in the accident, and I was thankful I wasn’t physically hurt, and nothing more happened at the time. Luckily, a helpful policeman nearby had seen everything take place, helped me get out of the car through the driver’s side window, helped me call a tow truck, and drove me home. While sitting in the backseat, a snow plow appears out of what seems to be nowhere, too late for the already totaled car, but attempting to do their job and help future drivers that would drive down the same hill that very day.

I was emotionally invested in trying to sort of my discombobulated thoughts. Inwardly, I was asking myself if I was a failure and if the accident could have been avoided. I returned to apologize for what happened and kept to myself the rest of the day, coping quietly with a myriad of thoughts running through my mind.

You see, I have love-hate relationship with myself. I can be my worst critic, and my biggest fan. It is uncanny how that works, right?

I share these stories for others to glean potentially new perspectives, do some healing of my own, and come up with helpful tools that are beneficial for everyone. Life is beautiful in many ways, but it can also be challenging. Maybe you’ve heard some of these things before. I feel they are important to share, as we try and live our best lives on a day to day basis.

  1. Self Compassion
  2. Journaling

3. Daily Affirmations

4. Selecting one or two people to talk to about the stuff of life

5. Yoga

6. Singing

7. Surrounding thy self with positive people and vibes

8. Finding a life coach

9. Talk Therapy

10. Doing one thing that makes you happy daily

11. Find something in nature that becomes that becomes your Zen place.

12. Dance Movement