(The) Gifts of Imperfection: #A-Z Challenge
“I don’t believe that compassion is our default response. I think our first response to pain–ours or someone else’s–is to self-protect. We protect ourselves by looking for someone or something to blame. Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgment or by immediately going into fix-it mode.”
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
I wish I could say that Dr. Brown is wrong.
There’s a classic self-compassion exercise we can do when the stories we tell ourselves are harsh and judgmental. Just imagine a good friend in the same situation. What wisdom, support and compassion would we extend to that friend?
If what I’ve done is particularly stupid or embarrassing, imagining a friend doing the same thing leads to the same punitive, harping criticism that I heap on myself. Of course, I’d never say any of that to my friend. I would give all of the logical reasons why the situation is no big deal. I’d be a poster child for wisdom, support, and compassion. But inside? Inside I’d be a negative, squirming, judgmental mess.
Self-Compassion is Priority #1
Since we can’t genuinely offer to others what we won’t give ourselves, self-compassion is where we must begin.
Dr. Kristin Neff is the first researcher to empirically study self-compassion. She says that it has the same three components as compassion for others.
First, you have to notice that you are suffering.
Second, you need to be moved by your own suffering and want to comfort and take care of yourself.
And third, you need to recognize that everything you go through is part of our shared human experience. You are not the only person to have ever failed, embarrassed yourself, said or done something thoughtless.
Take the Self-Compassion Test
There’s an excellent 26 question test on Neff’s website. (Look for the purple box on the right under the image.) It took me about five minutes to complete, and gave me an overall self-compassion score of 3.13. Apparently I’m average in having a moderate level of self-compassion.
Sub-scores show that I have a problem with being kind to myself (2.20), am self-judgmental (4.20), and I over-identify with my negative qualities (4.00). No kidding.
On the positive side, I get it that everyone has these experiences (4.25), don’t believe I’m the only imperfect human (1.75), and am working hard at noticing or being mindful of how I talk to myself (4.25)
The test is followed by seven guided meditations and eight exercises you can try if you want to improve your level of self-compassion.
Is self-compassion an issue for you? If so, which of the three components is most challenging: noticing, wanting to help yourself, or recognizing that you’re not alone?