What is your best advice for beginners in the world of mindful self-compassion?
Jessica: I want to share three things that I think have helped me more than anything in my healing journey: working with meditation and self-compassion, setting boundaries and learning to trust my own inner guide.
I can't underestimate the impact that developing a self-compassion practice and changing how I speak to myself, how I treat myself, learning to really love and accept myself more, has had on my pain and my recovery journey.
Laura: What did a conversation with yourself look like before, where you were not being so compassionate? And what does that shift look like now?
Jessica: As I think back to the work that I used to do, I'm picturing myself in healthcare as a new manager and there's a physician who’s upset with me. He's just upset but it’s getting directed at me at that moment. My internal dialogue in that conversation was, “You're failing. You're not enough. You're totally messing this up. What's wrong with you? Get it together. You're not getting it done.” These are things that I would never say to somebody else.
That's not to say that those thoughts don't still come up sometimes. Our thoughts just happen. In my work this week in HR we're sorting through some really raw and vulnerable feelings for people in the workplace about everything that's happening in the world and what our company’s response to it is. I was finding as I sat down to meditate I was hearing some of that old voice that says, “You're not doing enough. You're not fixing this for people. You're failing.”
But I'm able to see it and hear it so much more easily now, because of the formal meditation practice that I've done. I now replace it with putting my hand on my heart and saying, “Hey, I'm really trying hard here and I just have to keep showing up and doing my best. I really care about these issues and that's going to show through to people.” So it's not like we never have critical thoughts again as we work with these practices. But we can see them faster and replace them with those loving positive messages that we would give to a friend or somebody we care about who’s struggling with something.
Laura: I think that piece is so important - learning to identify what an unhelpful critical thought looks like. Because many of us believe that if we’re being hard on ourselves it’s going to lead us to become better. It's going to push us to do our best if we just keep being our own biggest critics. There is such a fine line between constructive criticism towards yourself where you really take a look and say, “Okay I tried my best, and I made a mistake, and I can learn from this going forward” vs. “I made a mistake. I always make mistakes. I knew I was going to make a mistake. Why did I even try?” And then you kind of spiral downwards and it's not getting you towards your goal. Learning to distinguish and identify is so easy when we see it written out on paper, but it’s so hard in our own head.
Jessica: It's really hard in our own head. I think of formal meditation practice - and by that I mean you sit down for 10 minutes a day, most days, and you focus on your breath, or use an app, or use a guided meditation - and those things help us to actually be able to see our thoughts a little bit more easily. And with the absence of that kind of intentional practice most people are living a lot of their lives in the future rehearsing for things, and rehashing things from the past.
A formal meditation practice can help you to see those thoughts a little bit more clearly as they come up, and then have an intention to be more gentle with yourself.
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