Self Compassion Illustrated
I had a really poignant interaction with a client in session earlier this week. I did obtain her permission to share the following story.
She shared with me the philosophy of her fellow labor and delivery nurses and herself about dying babies. She told me when a baby is born prematurely and their lungs are not sufficiently developed, there is very little they can do to save them. The baby will eventually pass. At times the parents are unwilling to hold the child until it takes its last breath, which may be hours. The nurses on duty will take turns holding the baby because they believe no one should die alone.
Later in our session we were talking about how difficult it is for her to be kind to herself. She ended up sharing with me some attributes that made her loveable, acceptable, worthy. The list was extensive...a good aunt and daughter, a good nurse, kind, compassionate, funny, generous, very smart. When she finished, I simply pointed out a very subtle but important difference between self-esteem and Self-Compassion. When a person has high self esteem the assumption is that they earned the right to feel good about themselves. Accolades go hand in hand with high self esteem. She or he who is accomplished has won the right to high self esteem. In contrast, Self-Compassion reminds us we are all worthy of love...for no particular reason other than we are a living breathing human being.
It brought me back to the story of the babies. Nurses, my client included, envelope those dying babies with so much compassion. Those babies have not cashed a paycheck, volunteered at a food bank, paid for someone else's coffee in line, made the honor roll, or scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. Those babies are living and breathing human beings worthy of grace, compassion, and respect. We were babies once. Our form has changed and our experiences shape us. But no matter, we are all still worthy of the same grace, compassion, and respect because we all draw breath. There is no waiting to care for yourself with Self Compassion. You don't have to reach the finish line, make your mark, ring the bell, check any box. You just are. In showing yourself compassion, you get to lovingly embrace your whole self before any accomplishments have been accomplished. It is providing yourself the same gentleness as you would a friend. Self Compassion doesn't withhold affection until certain criteria are met. It is limitless available to all of us who choose it.