One of the most common barriers to self-compassion seems to be the idea that it's .... well, just a weeny bit woosy. Offering yourself kindness might be ok if you live in a bubble but, for those of us in the real world, it's just not an option. I can't admit to struggling - it's tough out there, don't you know! Or maybe you can't acknowledge feeling exhausted or stressed because you're simply too busy taking care of everyone else's needs to acknowledge your own. While the content may vary, the common thread is that many of us avoid facing our difficult emotions for a great many reasons and instead bury them or find a myriad of ways to numb the pain.
But here's the thing: you might avoid feeling your feelings for a while - or even a lifetime - but they won't disappear or go away on their own. When we resist feeling emotions they build up inside us in an unhelpful way - and will always find a way out. Sooner or later, anxiety and stress, illness, addiction or relationship problems will slow us down. Sooner or later, life will hand us yet another opportunity to look at ourselves in the mirror and recognise that what ails us is within us. It turns out there is no escaping ourselves.
Feeling your feelings may sound simple enough, but it's not easy. It takes courage to look fear in the eye and stay present. It takes strength to feel anger without reacting. It takes power to say 'this no longer feels ok' and to act on it, or to stop saying 'yes' when we need to say 'no'. The good news is that it gets easier with practise and that anyone can learn. It's a bit like training a muscle, it gets stronger. So, next time you notice yourself reacting in anger, take a long deep breath, walk away, close your mouth, whisper kind words into your own ear. Stay present to the soft feeling underneath the hard anger. Maybe you are really feeling hurt, or frightened? Maybe it's not about the other person after all.
It may not be easy the first few times, but it is important to try and - like building any muscle - our capacity increases quickly with training. With self-compassion as your armour, you will soon find the strength to cope with even really difficult emotions with far greater ease. And that's good not just for ourselves, but for everyone around us.