Lynn: Definitely. I am a clinical therapist. I feel like I have both personal and clinical expertise on the topic of self-compassion and I hope people find my insight to be helpful.
Jennifer: Ok great. So how do you define self-compassion?
Lynn: As a clinical therapist it is my opinion that self-compassion goes beyond self-care. It is how you see, really see yourself. Do you like yourself? How do you talk to yourself? Are you always the self-critic? Do you forgive yourself? Do you accept and appreciate yourself? Are you fulfilled by who you are?
Jennifer: What are some ways that you help your clients to practice self-compassion?
Lynn: I teach my clients to practice self-compassion. I first teach them to recognize and identify the self-critic. I do some practice exercises where I give them a compliment and while they say verbally “thank you” they think “she is totally nuts to compliment that because I don’t deserve it.” Then, we go deeper. It takes a lot of work to like yourself–not in an outgoing/arrogant/self-confident way, but to actually forgive the parts you are ashamed of and accept and appreciate all you have been through and still like yourself. How you treat your best friend is an easy example too.
Jennifer: What might be some reasons why this is difficult for some?
Lynn: This can be a process for some patients. Possible reasons include: A life long habit or never recognizing the inner voice, just accepting it to be valid. For some, it may be not knowing you can change that inner voice. I really do think that a few sessions of therapy can really change this voice, in terms of the kindness of it.
Jennifer: How do you practice self-compassion in your personal life?
Lynn: I had to go through the process myself to get it and now I try harder. I am excellent at self care. I am not always excellent at self-compassion. I try to remind myself of the ways I was genuine and impactful and fulfilled and this helps. I try to be kinder to myself. The biggest thing that has helped me is when someone who I care about (so not in my office when it is not a vulnerable relationship on my end), who I am in a relationship with, says something that I then turn into a not compassionate sentence. I will ask that person if that is what he/she meant instead of walking away feeling badly.
Jennifer: Are there any ways that practicing self-compassion can be challenging for you to practice personally?
Lynn: Yes, I get challenged because of my work. I prioritize all of my clients which sometimes means nothing left for me and when I am exhausted it is easier to feel overwhelmed and question myself. It is also incredibly vulnerable to say to my husband or my mom or a friend “when you said that it sounded like you thought I was being X. Is that what you meant? Can you explain more about what you meant?”
Jennifer: What is one concrete exercise that you might have a client do who is struggling with being kind to themselves?
Lynn: Write a letter to yourself from the hands/eyes/heart of someone who really gets you and loves you. When you take away your own self-critic and try to see yourself through someone else’s loving eyes, that can help some.
Also, asking yourself after a not-self-compassionate thought arises, “Is that true? Am I being objective?”
Jennifer: Great. Thanks so much again Lynn for sharing your insight with readers.