My New Year’s Hope
As we enter 2022, I would like to share my hope for me and for you for the year ahead. My hope is that we treat ourselves with “self compassion.” I learned that term from UT psychology professor and self proclaimed “evangelist for self compassion”, Dr Kristin Neff. Brené Brown led me to Dr Neff’s Ted Talk from 2013. Most recently she has written a book last year called Fierce Compassion. Dr Neff breaks self compassion down to three elements- treating yourself with kindness, a sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. Treating ourselves with kindness involves talking to ourselves the way we would talk to a friend. Sometimes we talk to ourselves in a negative way that we’d never let another person talk to us. Our sense of common humanity acknowledges that we are all human and we all make mistakes. It calls us to not isolate ourselves from people in our pain or feelings of guilt. Finally, mindfulness means that we have a healthy perspective on our mistakes; likely the sky will not fall and civilization will not collapse because of our failures.
Now this may seem to you as an exercise in self indulgence or worse, a step towards narcissism. However, as Neff points out, self compassion tends to lead us to be more compassionate toward others. She notes that actually it is folks who have to prove themselves as better than others in order to experience self esteem who are most likely to become narcissistic. Therefore, she concludes that an emphasis on self compassion is healthier than an emphasis on self esteem both for us and for others with whom associate. As a theologian, I would agree with an emphasis on self compassion as it reflects both the Great Commandment “to love your neighbor as yourself” as well as reflects the unconditional value that God grants to us regardless of our successes or failures.
I wish you a year of kindness to yourself.