Self-Compassion Creating an environment for growth BY: Troy Murphy |January 2018
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Life is difficult—full of hazards. People threatening our well-being. For many, living is scary. The anxiety of living creates adaptations of thought to soothe the fears. Many adaptations lose utility as we pass into adulthood; but creatures of habit don’t easily change. We drift from the reality of the frail and fallible human condition to a world of strength. Our minds avoid contemplations that terrorize peace, bullying our stability. The realization of weakness provokes emotions, immediate defensive responses rescue the straggler, avoiding recognition of flaws that invade and strangle hopes. But improvement is doomed to self-protective blindness. We must first see, and then constructively approach.
If weakness painful ignites shame, poking sensitive spots on egos, we conveniently over-look the aggravators, smoothly projecting fault outside our selves. From an internal perspective, not having a weakness and not noticing a weakness appears the same.
We accept the conceptual idea of imperfection; a few brazenly don’t (we usually avoid those narcissistic brutes). But general acceptance that we aren’t perfect isn’t helpful. General acceptance is dandy but only by identifying specific points do we empower change. But here in the nitty-gritty of imperfection, knowledge tears into sensitivities, grating self-worth, weighing down with the burden of shame. Elevating beyond our current existence, we must accept knowledge that is embedded in specific imperfections. Here we find the information necessary for change.
We effectively administer self-compassion to identified flaws by attending to the regions of weakness—our soft spots. Here we need kindness; not harsh judgment.
We naturally treat personal characteristics that make us feel good kindly. We feel warm when pondering strengths. We must reach deeper to offer gentleness to weakness. This is the essence of compassion. Self-directed compassion expresses kindness even through the mistakes. We can love despite the flaws, addictions and self-destructions. We may dislike the behaviors and tirelessly work to change; but still compassionately accept the blemishes as part of the whole—a struggling but worthy human being. We all survive despite our flaws, working through challenging environments, stumbling through mistakes; but ultimately emerging on top.
"We effectively administer self-compassion to identified flaws by attending to the regions of weakness—our soft spots. Here we need kindness; not harsh judgment."
Acceptance of imperfection provides security for explorations into the soul without overwhelm. Isn’t that what we needed from our parents? The child’s courage to explore stems from a foundational knowledge of an ever-present base. Only when the child knows parental support waits will the child venture into new environments; danger without a trusted escape overwhelms.
Through acceptance, the self-imposed demands for perfection no longer burden the inner-child. Recognizing flaws no longer strikes the delicate self with impunity but opens opportunities. We compassionately embrace the vulnerable and frightened inner-child, not because he is perfect but because she is loved. By responding compassionately to weakness, we create a nourishing environment for growth. The person who tends their spirit with kindness also seeks compassionate outer-environments. Harsh inner environments seek collusion from the outside, our meanness to ourselves lends to connections on the outside that support our judgments of undeservedness.
As adults, we have the power to create kind environments—inside and out. By embracing our perfectly-imperfect human condition and acknowledging weaknesses, we nurture growth. This is self-compassion. Life is still difficult, but success and flourishing doesn’t demand perfection. We are adaptable. We face the demands—fail at times; succeed at times—and continue forward, reaping the rewards of courage and kindness.