More Than Compassion

by Andy Conrad, MA, PLPC, NCC

A quote has been floating around, attributed to the late actor, Robin Williams. It reads, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” This sentiment, whether it came from the mind of Mr. Williams, or if it’s an echo of philosophers and writers of different eras, illustrates a notion grander than compassion– we are all connected and suffering together.

It is common for each of us to feel isolated and detached in the midst of a struggle. We may feel stuck, cornered, and ill-equipped to take a step forward. Inviting in the concept that we are all connected through the human condition of suffering can serve as a vital piece to tipping our perspective into a place that radiates hope and healing. As this perspective widens, a new path is illuminated where alienation fades into the treeline and the foreground becomes a more vibrant and colorful landscape of self-compassion.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D. has dedicated much of her work and research to self-compassion. Dr. Neff describes three main components of self-compassion: self-kindness– a non-judgmental approach to our experiences, commonality in humanity– our suffering is our connection, and mindfulness– holding our experiences in awareness where we are not ignoring or exaggerating.

Self-compassion, as Dr. Neff explains, is an approach to living that is contrary to self-esteem. Chasing self-esteem is steeped in comparison, judgment, and often pettiness. The self-esteem conquest is an external journey, but the inward practice of self-compassion is a stabilizing endeavor and nurturing process that allows us to clearly address our needs. We can’t always sidestep the many pains of living, but the wonderful news is a person who practices self-compassion is

less likely to feel the anxiety quicksand of rumination in the wake of a failure or not meeting expectations.

When we are able to make the choice to offer ourselves compassion, we begin to cease keeping score in our lives and accept our flaws, missteps, and shortcomings. Let’s all do our best to be kind to ourselves.

You can learn more about Kristin Neff and self-compassion at self-compassion.org.

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