One of the biggest obstacles to self compassion that I hear students and clients talk about is the idea that being self compassionate is selfish or indulgent. I too have sometimes had this sneaky aversion to offering myself kindness. It's like; “Who am I to deserve this” ??? Aversion to self kindness seems to arise when we see in ourselves some longing to be special. And wanting to be ‘special’ is like over compensating against some fear that our pain isn't deserving enough of attention in the first place. Wanting to feel special seems to come up mostly when we are feeling vulnerable and alone in some way. Our social conditioning on the other hand, tells us it is wrong to think of ourselves as special or unique; that it is conceited and self-centred.
There is probably a wee kernel of collective wisdom to this: Generally speaking, it would have been more adaptive for the human species, being rather vulnerable as we are as individuals, to eek out survival for the clan on the basis of bearing burdens together, without one person alone getting the most credit for all the heavy lifting. In modern times, our actual immediate survival is no longer as precarious. But we still seem to be on the alert for the offenders amongst us who are taking too much credit for being special because they claim to have the most suffering. We tend to direct that same moralizing scrutiny towards ourselves; We think that indulging feelings specialness when we are down, is presumptuous and disrespectful to others who are carrying a burden themselves. But compassion and kindness do not require that we rank or ‘specialize’ anyones suffering. Imagine being able to turn towards your pain, offering it the attention it needs, with a full appreciation that your experience of distress, no matter the circumstance that led to it, is not unique to you: It connects you, rather than separates you from others. When practiced skillfully, self compassion actually make us less selfish - a good thing.
Have you noticed an aversion to offering yourself compassion ? That you don’t deserve it compared to others, or that being kind to yourself means you are thinking of yourself as too special?
DM me - I’d love to hear how fears of being too conceited shows up for you, getting in the way of being deserving enough of your own compassion.
This idea, that our pain and distress connects us as humans rather than separates us, is referred to as “Common Humanity" in the author and researcher Kristen Neff's definition of Self Compassion. It is one of the teachings and practices in the eight week Mindful Self- Compassion course (Starting this October 9th ) that I enjoy exploring the most with the participants. Coming to appreciate this 'not specialness' can be freeing. Sharing and discussing it in a group setting really helps. Developing self compassion helps us connect meaningfully with the world around us, so we can do good and be our best self.