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What Does Self-Compassion Actually Mean?

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station description The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
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Duration: 03:21
Listen to this discussion by The Happiness Lab Podcast about the true definition of self-compassion. Learn how to define it, what elements it includes, and how to gain a new perspective.

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Listen to this discussion by The Happiness Lab Podcast about the true definition of self-compassion. Learn how to define it, what elements it includes, and how to gain a new perspective.
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most of us dream of a world in which our friends, colleagues and even total strangers consistently treat us with kindness, understanding and compassion. It is kind of puzzling then that so many of us have such a hard time treating ourselves with the same kind of respect. True self compassion seems amazingly rare before Kristin Neff began her research back in 2006. It was a really poorly understood virtue. So what even is self compassion? Well, scientists define compassion is the desire to alleviate suffering, and so self compassion is the desire to alleviate our own suffering. And there are three parts to it. So part is being kind, warm and supportive and that's more the emotional tenor of self compassion, treating ourselves like we would treat a good friend, there's also two other elements so that are really important. What is actually mindfulness and not everyone defines self compassion and compassion for others as necessarily having to include mindfulness, but I think it has to because without being mindful of suffering without being able to turn towards and be with pain to actually face our mistakes or actually, you know, recognize how hard it is for s a moment, we actually can't be self compassionate, right? And so if we just try to avoid our pain, you know, like stiff upper lip, shove it down, I'm not going to acknowledge it, we can't be self compassionate. Alternatively if we're lost in our drama, like, oh this is so terrible is the worst thing that ever happened, I'm such a terrible person, like if we refused with our pain, we have no space that mindfulness gives us, we have no perspective. If we have no perspective, then we can't step outside of ourselves to say, well I'm having a really hard time. I need some warmth and support right now. And you mean mindfulness in a particular way, right? You mean accepting your suffering without trying to change it non judgmentally right. Mindfulness especially in the context of self compassion really just means that we are present and aware of whatever painful feelings were having a difficult thoughts or emotions. And it also means that we accept that they're they're so mindfulness is really kind of the foundation of self compassion and then there's that warm supportive response, but really important because we don't want self compassion to be self pity. Self focused self pity is not helpful to anyone and needs recognition of common humanity. A recognition of interconnection. What differentiates compassion from pity? If someone pit issue, it doesn't feel good because looking down on you, there's a sense of separateness, but we like it when people give us compassion when they say like, hey, I've been there, you know, so compassion in the, in the latin actually means to suffer with. There's an inherent connectedness and compassion there, but for fortune go I so with self compassion, it's not really self focused at all. You know, the word self is there, it's just saying, hey, life is difficult for everyone. All human beings make mistakes. I'm not alone and that ability not to feel alone is one of the most powerful aspects of self compassion. I mean, loneliness is a huge problem in our society. And when you remember that actually we're never alone. Not everyone suffers the same amount. That's certainly not true. I mean, people of privilege suffer less than people who are pressed, so there are differences that need to be honored, but it's also true that no one escapes suffering. You know, we all struggle.
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