Self-compassion isn’t all just about being kinder and gentler to yourself. Sometimes, it’s about facing your fears and rising up and standing up and being true to yourself. You see, there are two equal and opposing elements of self-compassion and each part is necessary at different times in our life.
Remembering that self-compassion is comprised of mindfulness, self-kindness and common humanity, how does this translate across the Yin and Yang?
The Yin of self-compassion is the loving, connected presence that I wrote about here. There are moments in our life that we need to turn down the ‘mean girl’ in our head and just give ourselves a break! We need to realise that we are all human and making mistakes or experiencing suffering is just part of the human experience. Most importantly, we need to be mindful of our current situation and how we are choosing to react or treat ourselves in the moment.
The Yang of self-compassion, according to Dr Kristin Neff, is fierce, empowered truth. It’s standing your ground and saying ‘No!” It’s defending your truth, whether that is about you personally or something else that goes against your morals, your values…your truth.
Again, being mindful of the situation around us, not choosing to bury our heads or be in denial. Self-kindness means that we need to honour our truth and come to our own defence. Have you ever noticed that it seems so much easier to defend someone else rather than ourselves?
Common humanity means that we can all rise up. It’s recognising that you’re not alone in what you’re dealing with and together we are stronger. It’s so important to face our truth and tell our stories. Not only does it empower us but it empowers others around us.
How many times have you kept quiet or bitten your tongue to avoid ‘rocking the boat’, ‘making a scene’, ‘being a drama queen’? We certainly seem to have plenty of terms for it. Women in particular, seem to suffer on this one. As Dr Neff points out, women are seen to have more of the Yin qualities, but there is also more than enough Yang in all of us (think of a lioness whose cubs are threatened). However, if a woman displays too much Yang, she is seen as aggressive and even a little cray-cray.
Interestingly, if a man shows too much Yin, he is seen as soft and incompetent.
The good news….finding the right balance of the Yin and Yang of self-compassion can literally change the world! Think of the many positive changes that have taken place in recent times. So many issues have been raised and overcome with kind, connected men and fierce, empowered women.
Think of the awareness and action that has taken place over climate change in the last ten years. Think of the ‘Me Too’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaigns in the US. Closer to home in Australia, we are celebrating the one year anniversary of gay marriage.
So many men and women together being kind, being connected but also being fierce and empowered.