Struggling? Start with self-compassion

My husband and I are really struggling around parenting right now. Some days, all I can do is take it hour by hour, breathe and pray. I’m not sleeping well, so my energy is low, my productivity at work has suffered and my joy for life is ebbing more than flowing. It’s easy to see everything that’s not working, rather than everything that is.


Yesterday I acknowledged where I was and stopped trying to change things. And, I stepped back and looked at the big picture: our family is navigating a lot of transitions, being 17 and differentiating from your parents is no easy task and these are difficult times to be a human.

Later that day, I finally stopped trying to get stuff done and went out on the back porch to enjoy a tall glass of self-compassion and drink in the reminder that tomorrow is a new day.

Last year while leading a retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness in the Berkshire Mountains, a woman from Amsterdam shared with our women’s group that her three-year-old daughter calls herself “little sweetie.” The mom remarked, “I often hear her my daughter roaming around the house saying …it’s ok little sweetie, you’re tired, you need a nap …it’s ok, little sweetie, you’re hungry and need some strawberries. Or to her mom, “little sweetie is sad, she needs a hug.”  This mother’s young daughter simply knows no other way than to treat herself with loving kindness; she hadn’t been taught there was any reason she shouldn’t. (She inspired the rest of us to refer to ourselves as “little sweetie” for the duration of the retreat!)

I wonder what our culture might be like if we taught self-compassion as a sought after skill to be developed and honed–as equally valued as hard work and perseverance. Can you imagine hearing teachers and other influential mentors regularly remind their students and peers, “Be gentle with yourself” …?

How do you begin to cultivate self-compassion? Here are some ideas that help me:

1. Find and post a picture of yourself between ages 3-5 (a tender time) and see how this shifts your perspective and ability to be easy on yourself; you’re still that same little person! (This is little Renee, above, at age four.)
2. Take a 30,000 foot view and find perspective. We’re all juggling so much: divorces, illnesses, parenting woes, career/life changes, work upheaval–give yourself a break. You have a lot going on and are doing the best you can. Sometimes we lose sight of all we’re navigating.
3. Reach out for support: have a heart-to-heart with a dear friend who holds the highest and best for you. A kind conversation can really help us loosen our hold on what’s “right or wrong” and help us see things with softer, gentler eyes.
4. Practice modeling this for your children, friends and coworkers: if you’re a parent, instilling in your children the value of being kind to themselves can help them develop strong self-esteem, lower stress and heighten resiliency. Let them hear, “I had a challenging day, I’m doing the best I can.” Same goes for your friends at work.

Often when I’m being hard on myself, I will take a long, slow deep breath, place my hands over the center of my chest and invite in self-compassion. When I can remember to soften and open my heart, it helps me see others in a whole new light. Compassion for others starts with compassion for myself.



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Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance coach/author/speaker and self-care evangelist Renée Peterson Trudeau. Passionate about helping men and women experience balance through the art/science of self-care, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, US News & World Report, Spirituality & Health and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning self-care curriculum.  She is the author of three books on life balance and mindfulness including the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 17-year-old son. More on her background here.