Unique Self Institute

Cultivating Compassion: The Bridge to Your True Self, the Key to Your Unique Self

Feb 14, 2024

by Claire Molinard

Why do we struggle to be kind to ourselves, and why is it so important?

 In a world that prioritizes productivity over self-care, extending kindness to ourselves may seem indulgent, selfish, or even irresponsible. Some may view it as a sign of weakness as if admitting vulnerability or an inability to keep up with societal expectations.

 We’re taught to care for others but not for ourselves, but deep within, there’s a fundamental human longing to embrace our humanity with love and acceptance. 

Both spiritual leaders and psychologists agree that genuine compassion begins with being gentle towards ourselves: When we break the habit of turning away from our own needs and instead we turn inward, we discover a wellspring of love and kindness waiting to be tapped. Pema Chodron, a revered Buddhist teacher, describes this inner well as boundless and profound. As we open our hearts, we uncover layers of tenderness within. 

Practicing self-compassion involves learning to observe ourselves without harsh judgment or criticism. Simply acknowledging our inner experiences can soften our hearts and lead us to that reservoir of love beneath the surface noise of our minds. Dr. Marc Gafni, beautifully puts it this way: “The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love”.

This approach certainly goes against the cultural norms that urge us to ignore our pain, soldier on, and avoid self-indulgence. However, as the saying goes, “What you resist, persists”. Ignoring our suffering only allows it to grow inside us, affecting every part of our lives. According to Fritz Perls, acknowledging “what is” is the first step toward healing. It’s the paradox of self-transformation: We must first accept ourselves as we are before we can begin to change.

Think of a child having a hard time. When ignored, she gets more upset. Comforted and listened to, she calms down. It’s the same with us – when we’re suffering, we must turn towards ourselves with kindness.

Dr. Rick Hanson, in his book “Hardwiring Happiness,” explains that practicing compassion nurtures a foundation of trust within us, enabling us to navigate challenges with greater resilience. Neurologically, it triggers the release of oxytocin, gradually diminishing the brain’s predilection for negativity. The brain’s “tend and befriend” mechanism forges new neural pathways, moderating the amygdala’s instinctual fight-or-flight response. On the other hand, self-criticism floods our system with cortisol, triggering adrenaline release to confront the perceived threat—from within ourselves. Over time, this relentless self-critique causes depression, depleting the neurotransmitters essential for experiencing joy.

Self-compassion therefore, isn’t selfish; it’s an act of self-acceptance, essential to experience more freedom, authenticity, and flow in our lives and all our relationships. Because when we turn to ourselves with love, we naturally soften towards the imperfections of those around us, and we begin to tap into the boundless, expansive space Chodron so beautifully describes. We’re turning to what Gafni describes as “the field of outrageous love” in which we are always already held.

So, how do we cultivate self-compassion in our daily lives?

Begin by carving out moments of stillness amidst the chaos—a quiet sanctuary where you can listen to the whispers of your heart. Breathe deeply, allowing each inhale to fill you with compassion and each exhale to release judgment and self-criticism. In moments of struggle, practice the art of self-soothing, treating yourself with the tenderness and care you would offer a loved one in need. Place a hand over your heart, close your eyes, and whisper words of comfort and reassurance. In these moments of vulnerability, you’ll discover the profound power of gentleness and compassion.

Above all, we must remember that self-compassion is not a destination—it’s a journey, daily practice of returning home to the tender refuge within. The more we practice, and let ourselves open up to the deep well of compassion within, the more we will experience being kind to ourselves, and others, as a result. Eventually, we discover that self-compassion is the bridge that we must cross to tap into Source, the Love Intelligence which lives in you and as you uniquely.