As human beings we all lose our way from time to time along the journey of life. We find ourselves feeling isolated and in pain and nothing that has worked in the past seems to help. I get it. I’ve been in the wilderness too. I am grateful to have found people along the way who have guided me back home to myself. If you found your way to this site you may have summoned up the courage and willingness to seek out a guide of your own.
It is a tremendous honor to serve as a supportive witness to the transformation of another human being. Through my own struggles and as a witness to the journeys of others I have come to understand that our stories are more similar than different.
Here is what I have learned:
“I am so terrible.”
“I can't believe I screwed that up again.”
“I am so ugly.”
“I am the cause of my own mistakes and unhappiness.”
Are you constantly hard on yourself? Do you find yourself saying negative things to yourself? Does it seem normal? You're not alone.
Underneath so much of our suffering lies our own self criticism and lack of self compassion and self care. So what can you do? Here are 5 simple things that will help you create more self-compassion in your life.
Written by Jiovann Carrasco, LPC-S
As the electoral votes came rolling in for Donald Trump in the late hours of the night, and panic began to proliferate my Twitter feed, I realized I have no idea who America is right now. My Facebook friend list is a happy collection of liberal-minded, college educated, city dwelling do-gooders and Austin is this cozy little blue oasis in a sea of Texas red. Looking at the red and blue patches on newsroom monitors in states like Wisconsin, Ohio, or Michigan, I realized that I’m a complete stranger to the people who reside in the rural regions of these states. Who are these people?
It’s easy to imagine the average Trump supporter as blatantly racist, uneducated, loud-mouthed, sexist and basically idiotic. That’s what seems to make the most sense to someone who regards himself as among the refined, civilized, and progressive members of our society. Us. Them. We. Other. Well, what good did that do? Maybe that dichotomy doesn’t exist after all.
How America shot itself in the foot.
Every time we reacted to his bigotry or idiocy, we added fuel to the fire. We gave him more and more press. Every time we shamed him or mocked him, he arose even stronger. The media that he claims is rigged against him basically gave him all the attention he didn’t deserve and made him a star. You don’t fight fire with fire.
Written by Andrea Maldonado, LPC
October was National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, and as October came and went my husband and I lit our candle to memorialize the losses that we have encountered in years past. Loss of any kind can be traumatic and difficult, but loss of a baby, well that is probably the biggest pain I have ever personally experienced. It wasn’t just my pain either, it was my husband's, and our family’s, who had already come to love the little lives that ended.
For me, I think one of the hardest parts of the experience was how isolating that kind of grief can be. I was lucky enough to have a few friends at the time who had experienced pregnancy loss, and were available for us, but the majority of my circle of friends and family had, surprisingly, little to no experience with the subject. I could feel that they wanted to be there to support my husband and I, but it’s difficult on the other side to know “the right thing” to say.
Written by Emily Holden, LPC-Intern
In an alternate universe, where everyone went around doing what other people wanted and only giving to others, who would be left to ask for a favor? Who would be left to receive the gifts of others? Of course that is not the world we live in, but hopefully that far-fetched scenario encourages a momentary paradigm shift, inviting readers to suspend their prior judgments and long-held assumptions while reading this post.
The act of giving actually goes two ways. In one direction a person exerts energy to please someone else. While on the other hand, the person being helped must show up with a willingness to receive the service or gift. Without the giver, the receiver does not reap happiness, and without the receiver, the giver has no one to reflect appreciation for his acts, while he/she also loses out on the inherent joy that humans, as social animals, get from helping others.
In his book Dancing With Fire: A Mindful Way to Loving Relationships, John Amodeo suggests that “we may then bask together in a non- dual moment in which there is no distinction between the giver and the receiver. Both people are giving and receiving in their own unique ways. This shared experience can be profoundly sacred and intimate.”
Perfectionism is something so many of us struggle with.
We constantly berate ourselves for not doing better, for not being better, and often we are focused solely on our improvement.
The thing about perfection that makes it dangerous is that it is unattainable. You can always do better, be better. You can have a better house, better car, better job, better body...
So why did Voltaire say perfect is the enemy of good. Because in the search for perfection we can forget to live our lives. We can forget to be present, be who we want to be in our relationships, and care for ourselves.
So how do you combat these habits of perfectionism? What is the opposite of perfectionism?
Do you want to make a difference in the lives of millions of people in developing nations, all while giving yourself the gift of mindfulness? Did you know that 1 in 9 people don’t have access to clean drinking water? That’s insane! The non-profit organization Charity Water has been raising money, of which 100% goes to digging wells in these developing nations. You can read about their success here. Consider this great opportunity to give and receive something of great value by joining the Mindful in May challenge. Here’s how it works:
Shortly after moving to a new part of town, I found myself in one of two left turning lanes going under the highway and onto the frontage road of northbound I35. Now once you get onto the frontage road, it goes from two lanes down to one before the off ramp traffic is introduced. Since I like to be the one with the right of way, I try to position myself in the farthest left lane so that I don’t have to be the one to yield. It’s just efficient.
Well, one day, I was making my daily left turn onto the freeway, when this dude starts honking at me from his clearly inferior right lane position, and then rudely cuts me off. “Asshole!” I think. And then I think, “Man, people should really learn to respect the road rules in this community.” Then I remember how I want to be toward others, and I think, in a patronizing, holier than thou kind of way, “Well, I hope he gets where he’s going safely. God knows I’ve been in a hurry before, so I’ll be the bigger man and let it go.” This helps me to feel better about myself instead of feeling victimized.
Last week an 18 year old boy traveling with his parents in Ecuador went missing while he and his family had gone hiking. The boy had walked a bit ahead of his parents, and a little bit later they couldn't find him. They returned to the hotel but their son did not. To this day he is still missing.
I was watching this news story with a friend who quipped that they should have known better and made better decisions/choices. I want to make it clear that my friend isn't a mean-spirited person. He is actually quite caring and compassionate. However, just like any one of us might, he made a quick judgment. After all, we are human and imperfect.
I asked him if he could take on the perspective of these parents who were missing their child and had no idea where he could be. He immediately agreed and was able to connect with his compassion for these distraught parents. I asked him to sit with the pain of what it might be like if one of his nephews or nieces had gone missing. It's easy to forget about the suffering of others. After all, compassion literally means to suffer with.
Our discussion moved on to wondering if we could have compassion for child traffickers, pedophiles, and murderers. How hard must it be for someone who is sexually attracted to children? This may be a very difficult thing to imagine, especially if our judgments about their behavior (yes, it's never o.k.) prevent us from considering their pain. That is exactly what having compassion is about. It isn't about liking or agreeing with, or being permissive of immoral behavior. It is about accepting others' suffering and understanding and taking on their perspectives. So can you feel and understand the pain of others without agreeing with their choices?
I believe this is quite pertinent with the recent developments in politics in the past week. I am referring to the abortion bill battle in the Texas Senate and the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 in California. No matter which side you are on related to these issues, can you have compassion for the other side and still disagree with them?
Look inside your heart and see if you can relate to someone else's experience of suffering especially when you disagree with them. While you are at it, don't forget to have compassion for yourself, especially when you find this to be a very difficult thing to do!
Written by Monti Pal, LPC-Intern
What is self-compassion you might ask?
Self-compassion research has developed in the psychological world in the just the past 15 years, but it has its roots in Buddhism. Self-compassion is a newer concept but is based on the ancient idea of loving-kindness in Buddhism.
Dr. Kristin Neff, professor at University of Texas at Austin, began studying self-compassion years ago while struggling through her personal life challenges. Her research has shown that self-compassion helps individuals cope better with stressors in life, depression, and anxiety. It has also demonstrated why self-compassion is preferable to self-esteem. The basic components of self-compassion are: self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity.
Self-kindness means to offer yourself kindness and concern. Mindfulness can be defined as non-judgemental awareness of the present moment. Common humanity refers to the idea that we are not alone in our suffering. Essentially this means that, while you are suffering through your experiences and pain, there are other people who are suffering in the same or similar fashion. These three components combine to offer non-judgemental acceptance and kindness towards yourself as a human being. This is otherwise known as self-compassion.
Self-compassion is near and dear to my heart. I think it is important for some self-disclosure here. I struggled with feelings of depression for years. I found that I was highly self-critical of my actions, behaviors, intelligence, appearance, etc. I discovered self-compassion when I took a class with Dr. Kristin Neff. Something changed, and my eyes opened. I started to utilize her exercises both in class and outside of class, and slowly began researching similar authors to learn more about this idea. I can say now that I don’t really beat myself up anymore. Sure I have my moments, but I am human. Self-compassion has taught me a different way to look at life and at myself. So where should you begin? Sign up for one of our groups, pick up a book, or just start practicing mindfulness meditation for a few minutes a day. Slowly your eyes will open as well. I will leave you with an exercise:
Think about something that you did that you regret and are upset with yourself for. Write this event down in a form of a letter to yourself and then put it away for at least an hour but at most a day. Next I would like you to read this letter and think of how you would respond to a friend who had made the same mistake as you (hopefully you would respond to your friend compassionately; this is the key). Now write a letter to this friend who made the same mistake as you did. Consider now if there is a part of you that can offer compassion to yourself in the same way you would have offered it to your friend. Sit with this emotion, be mindful of what comes up, and offer your thoughts kindness and compassion as well.
Take care of yourself and be kind!
Written by Monti Pal, LPC-Intern
About Our Blog
Here you will find articles contributed by members of our team. We hope to provide helpful information here to inspire mindful living and general wellness. The information provided here is not a substitue for professional mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need to speak to a professional regarding your mental health, please make an appointment.