A Course on Self-Compassion Showed Me that I Am Enough
A course on self-compassion showed guest blogger Laura Spiegel that she was doing enough for her daughter who lives with special needs. In this post, she describes how the course helped her come to that conclusion.
I recently finished a course on self-compassion. Pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff nearly twenty years ago, self-compassion is the practice of giving ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend. If you’re like me, it’s not overly difficult to extend a hug or words of empathy and understanding to a friend who is struggling. But to extend that same olive branch to myself? That’s sometimes asking too much.
I’m not big on meditation. My mind wanders and I get overly focused on my loud breathing. Same thing with verbalized mantras. I’ll start with one and then flit to another and then wonder what everyone else is thinking about. Before I know it, I’ve made myself a giant dish of ice cream while stalking Facebook. Something tells me I’m doing it wrong . . .
Not long ago, a new practice took me by surprise. The course instructor told us to break out a pencil and paper and write a few sentences from the viewpoint of the “compassionate self.” In other words, if I were to speak to myself as I would a good friend, what would I say? Twenty minutes later, I didn’t want to stop!
Here are a few snippets from my first letter to myself:
You’ve been feeling the last couple of days like you aren’t doing enough. Being enough. I wish you could see what I see!
I see a woman who is carving a path for herself. A woman who is present for her children and an advocate for them.
I see a woman who is learning to care for herself. Who is exploring new joys and learning new things, but also backing away when they don’t spark joy.
I see a woman who has maintained an exercise routine for almost a year. Did you ever think you could do that? Your body is stronger and your mind clearer because of it. Keep it up!
I know you worry about not doing enough with your time. That’s a distraction from what’s important—and from the path you know you need to be on. Say “goodbye” to those worries. Picture them as a dandelion and blow them away.
Finally, just know that only good mothers worry that they’re not good mothers. All of your friends struggle with this too. The anger, the yelling, the vacillation between leniency and strictness, friendship, respect, tenderness, and lesson-teaching . . . Listen to your intuition. It will tell you what you need to do. How you need to be.
Think about what you ultimately want to instill in your kids. Confidence. The ability to navigate stressful situations and solve problems. Kindness for themselves and for others. And full-on knowledge that they are loved. Lead with these goals in mind, and the right words and actions will come to you.
Where in the world did these words come from? When I first put the pencil to the page, I didn’t plan to write about my worries that I’m not enough. But clearly, they were surrounding me. Suffocating me. And I needed a good friend to extend some words of empathy.
After I wrote that first letter, I treated myself to a pretty sketchbook. These days, I try to spend early mornings on the porch with a cup of coffee and my writing. Some letters are little more than a few affirmations that I am doing my best—and that women and mothers everywhere are struggling with many of the same things that I am. Other days, I veer all over the place. I try not to think about my words too much. I just let them flow.
Occasionally, if I need a pick-me-up during the day, I flip to a random page and read a few sentences I wrote during the course on self-compassion. And I know with the deepest sense of certainty that I am loved.
Do you like what you see at DifferentDream.com? You can receive more great content by subscribing to the monthly Different Dream newsletter and signing up for the daily RSS feed delivered to your email.
Laura Spiegel spent 12 years at the world’s largest biotech company, partnering with professionals and care teams to help people with special needs and disabilities lead full and happy lives. In 2013 her daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Laura now hosts Paint Her in Color, a website that offers emotional support to parents of children with special medical, developmental, or behavioral health care needs. When she isn’t reading, writing, or soaking up time with her husband and kids, Laura can be reached at Paint Her in Color, by email at email@example.com, and on Facebook and Twitter.
Subscribe for Updates from Jolene
Jolene explains her knee-jerk reaction to her pastor’s reference to the beauty of disability, only to discover the truth in what he said.
Guest blogger Kristin Faith Evans explains how the caregiving lifestyle has brought unexpected blessings into her life.
Guest blogger Heather Braucher explains how as special needs parents, we are FOR parents and children just like God is FOR us.