Self-Compassion and a Tea Kettle
Lately, I've been thinking about loving and appreciating yourselves (and how very difficult it can be)! The cold months are upon us here in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia), and this image of a tea kettle seems very fitting for the months ahead.
Enjoying a cup of tea is not something we can do haphazardly. When we're in the thick of mental fog caused by stress, to-do lists, franticly trying to get from point A to point B, it's hard to slow down and detach from the go-go-go mentality. When we're in this state, we can't enjoy a cup of tea. We'll get burned! We really have to slow down, experience the warmth, the flavors diffused into our hot water, the moment of pause and rest. This enjoyment of a cup of tea (and sharing it with someone else) is very much like self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff is an expert on self-compassion. She describes it as being three things:
2) Common humanity
1) Think of self-kindness as turning the warm regard you feel for your best friend or a loved one inward. It's turning ON the positivity you give to others when they have failures.
2) Remembering that "to err is human." A significant part of life is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. This is something we share with each and everyone of us. You're not alone in your experiences and your feelings. While your situation is unique, you share so much with your neighbors. When we share our lives with our friends, we realize how similar some of our experiences are and also the empathy they feel when we have difficult times. We also need to remember this with friends as well as alone.
3) Mindfulness refers to awareness of what's going on in our head. Thoughts are thoughts. When we begin to identify thoughts, we can do so non-judgmentally, and help extract our values. Mindfulness also allows us to lessen our grip on the thoughts that don't help us pursue our values. Think of mindfulness as a self-check-in on how we are doing and the content of our minds. There's no shame in thinking or feeling. When we practice mindfulness, we become observers of our experience rather than caught up in the mental tornado that is sometimes our mind.
As I look at this tea kettle I am reminded of the warmth, relaxation, and comfort of sitting down for a cup of tea. It can be enjoyed entirely alone or with friends. In either event, we are having our very own experience in the moment we sip from our cup (mindfulness). When we share a cup of tea with a friend, we are giving of ourselves and our resources (common humanity) in warmth and love (kindness). Sometimes we need a little catch up in our own lives, to enjoy the cup of tea and remember that warm regard we have for others, is also something we can experience toward ourselves.
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Heather Astill, MSW, LSCSW, LCSW-C