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Self Empathy & The Journey To Creating More Compassion In Midlife

By April 7, 2021June 18th, 2023Emotional Resilience

Cultivating Self Compassion & Changing Your Inner Dialogue

Last week I was working with the client whose 15 – year long relationship had just broken up. Which came as a complete surprise to her. She was so shocked and heartbroken that she was hardly able to cope with her everyday life (never mind add in a little self empathy). Many of us have been in a similar place, in our relationships, in our careers, with our friends or children. Something you value a lot, for some reason comes to an end. Totally unexpectedly. I‘m sure you can remember how devastating it can be.

Yet, for the first half of our session, my client was talking about something completely different. Basically, she was beating herself up for not noticing the signs, for not being able to save this relationship, for not being ‘this or that enough’ for him to stay, for ‘being such a mess’ right now, for not being able to stop crying and for plenty, plenty of other things.

We can be so cruel to ourselves.

This might look like quite an extreme example (although I don’t think it really is 😊 ). But take a day or two to listen carefully to the never-ending commentary in your own head. Is it that much different?

Self Empathy & Developing Love For Yourself Through Letting Go

We tend to be so unkind to ourselves, we show so little understating, we always find something to beat ourselves up for.

You are never good enough. Body. Life. Achievements… What? My what??? (never good enough).

If you really take time to notice and hear what’s going on in your mind, it can get quite scary.

I know you have learned over the years that you need to be hard on yourself to be efficient and motivated. And to keep yourself on track. Otherwise, you will get nowhere in life. But does that really work?

What would happen if you let go of that never-satisfied voice in your head or at least stop believing it? (And out of curiosity, whose voice it is – Mum’s?, Dad’s’, Primary school teacher’s?, Your spouse’s?)

Do you really believe that if you stop listening to this voice you will become lazy, lethargic and unkempt?

I hope, you don’t.

how to practice self-empathy

Rewiring Your Inner Dialogue Towards Self Empathy

The voices we heard so many times while growing up have become our inner voice. Have you seen Barnardos posters on the bus stops? ‘The way you speak to a child becomes their inner voice’. Listen and you’ll see that you are a living proof that it’s true.

For many of us, it has become such a strong habit by now, that if someone/something makes us notice how badly we treat ourselves (like I’m doing right now), guess what happens? We immediately start beating ourselves up for doing that! A bit crazy, isn’t it?

Good it’s just a habit. A deeply rooted one, I agree. But still, just a habit. Habits are learned and can be unlearned with a bit of practice.

I know, you might have gone years, talking to yourself like this and seemingly all was grand. Why does it matter now? Why change it now? Is it too late to implement a little self empathy into your inner voice now that you are in your midlife?

Using Empathy To Find Love For Yourself In Midlife

Midlife will challenge you on many levels. If you want to go through these challenges with this critical voice in your head – you’re up for a tough ride. Midlife is one long exercise in self-awareness, self-acceptance and learning to develop self empathy. A practice of rediscovering and redefining our power as women. A lesson in reconnecting to what makes us light up. If you approach this adventure with the mindset ‘I’m not good enough’ — you can see why you struggle so much.

empathy and self-empathy

And also, life can be tough. Your body changes, your relationships change, your kids leave the nest, your parents grow older. There is sickness, there’s death. There is suffering on the way. It’s all part of life.

There is no need to add more pain to what you might be going through. Beating yourself up, blaming yourself (or anybody else for that matter), criticizing yourself for all the mistakes and imperfections, will not make you feel better. Quite contrary, it will make you struggle even more.

What if we tried a totally different approach? Would it be hard to be kind to ourselves? Maybe this time we could be on our own side?

Making Empathy The Path You Choose From Now Onward

First, a word of reassurance for your suspicious mind. Self-compassion has nothing to do with self-indulgence or being selfish. It has nothing to do with self-pity and finding excuses. What it is is setting the intention for yourself to be well and then putting this intention into practice. It is like being a good, loving (and responsible) parent for yourself.

To keep things very simple, self-compassion requires just 3 things.

  1. Noticing that you are going through a hard time/moment. (Told you! Paying attention is half of the success!)
  2. Recognising that suffering, struggling, being imperfect, making mistakes is a quality of human life. We all go through pain and struggle, just in different versions and at different times. It not ‘just you’. It’s not that everyone else is perfect and you aren’t. We are all only human.
  3. Choosing to be kind and gentle and loving towards yourself.

And here everyone goes, but how do I do it??? Well, you know very well how to do it. You’ve been kind to so many people in your life. You know how to be gentle and loving with a child, to your best friend, often to a stranger even. This is no different. All you need to do is to start treating yourself in the same way. You have all the skills, all the tools, all the compassion in your heart. For some reason, you didn’t use any of this towards yourself up to now. Just start today. Better late than never.

Next time you catch yourself being a ‘mean girl’ to yourself, hold your horses. What do you need it for? Does it actually help? Could you just drop it? If your best friend, the one you love dearly, the one for whom you only want joy and happiness, was in your place right now, what would you say to them? Can you say the same to yourself?

self love

Self Compassion Is A Journey!

Let’s wrap up with something you can put in practice right away. K. Neff, who is an expert on self-compassion, teaches a very simple and easy practice. It’s short and nice and you can do it in a few seconds.

The moment you start to give out to yourself for something you didn’t do well enough, call yourself names or criticise the way you look, think or behave, stop for a moment and say to yourself gently:

This is a moment of suffering (or frustration, anger, sadness, fear, embarrassment, shame, etc.).

Suffering is part of being human.

Can I be kind to myself right now? ‘ (k. Neff)

Repeat it a few times (really mean it! )and see how your whole energy shifts in a fraction of a second. How everything softens and you can drop your shoulders a bit and take a deep inhale. And maybe even breathe a sigh of relief.

And this is just a beginning. If you make self-compassion your default position a lot of things in your life will shift and change. And your midlife adventure will take a totally different shape and colour.

Want to break free from your never-ending self-criticism and learn how you can invite more self-compassion in easy and powerful ways? — let’s talk! BOOK A FREE DISCOVERY SESSION HERE.

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