This article was first published on March 5, 2019, and updated on June 27, 2020.
For the last 3 years I’ve been asking people why they don’t practice self-compassion so that we can explore these barriers in Somatic Self-Compassion training in service of moving toward feeling more freedom and authenticity. Four main themes came out of the responses from the HeartWorks community about what gets in the way of being more self-compassionate:
lack of motivation to practice;
fears of what might happen if I practice;
beliefs and misgivings of what self-compassion is;
cultural conditioning and habits of not being compassionate to myself.
I design training to address each point and want you to know that if any of these issues are getting in the way of your self-compassion, there’s a part of the Somatic Self-Compassion curriculum for that . Here I’ve listed the topics we explore over the 14-week program and some of the ways they might address barriers to practice.
Week 3 Exploring Values and Strengths
If you’re afraid that if you start being kind to yourself you’ll never get anything else done, might tuning in to your values help you to get better perspective on what is important to you so that you’re focussing on quality tasks that are meaningful to you rather than quantity of tasks?
If you feel that you don’t have the kinds of strengths needed to practice self-compassion (like persistence, patience or discipline), how would it feel to know that you can use the strengths you do have in cultivating a practice?
If you believe that self-compassion is self-indulgent, might connecting it with your values help you to see that it’s important for living a meaningful life?
If you believe that self-compassion doesn’t come naturally to you, might exploring what does come naturally to you and using these strengths within a self-compassion practice support your approach to practice?
Week 4 Identifying Goals and Motivations
If you believe that you should use your energy to help others rather than focus on yourself, might learning how self-compassion can support you to sustainably support others help to reorient your thinking?
If you believe that martyrdom is a badge of honor, might connecting with your goals remind you of what you’d like to sustainably achieve in the world (and that burning out will not help you achieve this)?
Week 5 Encouraging Wellbeing Neurochemicals
If it feels as if you are motivated more by achievement than by tending to yourself, might understanding that this is a natural function of neurochemicals help to get perspective on your motivation?
If it feels as if it’s too late because you needed compassion in childhood, might understanding how you can encourage new neural pathways of self-compassion through practice help address this concern?
If you feel that you have a well ingrained habit to not be kind to yourself, might your understanding of how neural pathways are created help you to understand how habits form and how you might begin new habits?
Week 6 Nourishing Self-Care
If you feel that it takes more effort than you’re able to summon right now, might turning some of your regular tasks into self-care rituals make it feel less like effort and more like something delightful?
If you know you simply forget to practice, might creating self-care rituals help you to remember?
Week 7 Tending Through Sensory Modulation
If it feels as if you don’t have the tools to be with your pain, might learning and reminding yourself of simple self-soothing practices help you to feel less overwhelmed?
Week 8 Validating and Honoring Our Revved Up Stress Response
If your inner rebel pushes against the “shoulds” around practice, might gaining more wisdom about why your nervous system goes to a fight or flight response in this scenario support you?
If you’re afraid the the inner critic will take over, might understanding where that critic originated help you to start navigating your relationship with it?
If you believe that self-compassion will make you weak, might reframing weakness and strength within the context of a learned survival response help you to validate your pain and start moving toward a place of more empowerment?
Week 9 Validating and Honoring Our Shut Down Stress Response
If it feels that it’s pointless to try because it won’t help you, might understanding your freeze response help you to understand why you give up on yourself in this way?
If you believe that you don’t deserve it self-compassion, might understanding where this message of being unworthy came from help you to get more perspective?
If you feel guilty for practicing, might understanding how cultural messages contributed to feeling that guilt help you to see your experience within a wider context?
Week 10 Reconciling With Our Body
If you’re afraid that resigning yourself to focussing on self-compassion will simply highlight the fact that you’re not getting it from others in your life, might gradually developing the courage to connect with yourself offer you some of what you feel you need from outside of yourself?
If you’re concerned that you won’t know the difference between not taking responsibility for your actions and practicing self-compassion, might tapping into the wisdom of your body help guide you in answering this question?
If you don’t even realize you’re being hard on yourself, might learning how to safely connect with your internal experience (interoception) help you to feel some confidence that you can notice when you are feeling stress in your body?
If you prefer distraction to tuning in to your experience, might understanding how distraction is a survival response help you befriend this part of your experience and move toward other ways of connecting with yourself that feel more sustainably nurturing?
Week 11 Increasing Wellbeing and Pleasure
If you feel you don’t have the time to practice, might identifying existing activities that encourage flow during your day help you to see where you are already supporting your wellbeing so that you can plan more of these?
If you believe that hard work is more important than self-compassion, might understanding how hedonic and eudaemonic wellbeing informs our motivations help you to get perspective on practice?
Week 12 Living Spiritually
If you’re afraid that you’ll have to meditate in silence in order to practice self-compassion, might learning that there are many ways to practice a self-compassionate spiritual existence (that doesn’t have to include formal meditation practice) help to make practice more accessible?
Week 13 Connecting with Community
If you didn’t develop self-compassion because you didn’t see your parents practicing it, might being in a community of folks dedicated to practice support you to develop this skill?
If you don’t know that you are deserving of love just for being, might learning how we all need love to thrive help you to see this as your birthright?
We’d love to see you on the next Somatic Self-Compassion journey. You can explore self-compassion in the comfort of your own home, and in the company of fellow travelers who experience the same barriers as you do to practice.
- Podcast Episode 9: Favorite Things on my Morning Walk - January 27, 2021
- Podcast Episode 8: Slow News Days and Companioning the Neutral - January 22, 2021
- Podcast Episode 7: Self-Care as the Shit Hits the Fan - January 6, 2021
- Podcast Episode 6: Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Anxiety, Isolation, and Quarantine - January 5, 2021
- Somatic Self-Compassion Week 1 Practice Cycle: What is Somatic Self-Compassion? - January 4, 2021