A couple of weeks ago I sat down with the leading researcher of self-compassion, and author, Dr. Kristin Neff. We talked about why the practice of self-compassion is so essential for our educators in schools right now.
My top takeaways from Dr. Kristin Neff:
- Authenticity is the key to fierce compassion
- Integration of both fierce and tender compassion is the foundation of sustainable well-being
- Self-compassion takes less time than shame
I learned that fierce compassion is a way of acting, providing, motivating, and boundary-setting in our world with compassion. When we learn to integrate both, the fierce compassion practice and the tender part that accepts ourselves unconditionally, we learn the foundation of how to sustain our well-being.
Kristin Neff shares how this fierce, action-oriented, explicit way to be self-compassionate is a wise way of protecting yourself from the many oppressive events that affect us in our world. This conversation really brought to light the change that can happen (both at an individual and systems level) when we are brave enough to step up and speak up while protecting ourselves in the process.
One of my favorite lines she offered in this interview is that “authenticity is the key to fierce compassion.”
What does authenticity look like in terms of fierce self-compassion?
It’s staying true to ourselves and our beliefs while also believing in our worthiness enables us to maintain our voice, our beliefs, and our values even when it’s challenging in our world.
Often, we see in the world of education, educators fiercely showing up day-to-day and doing so in a system that is continuing to oppress, suppress, and often cause trauma. But this ongoing showing up, providing, and doing in a compassionate way may be leading many of us to a feeling of burnout while we aren’t being authentic and true to ourselves.
On the flip side, educators are also naturally compassionate humans with a tender side to caring and loving our students. Educators naturally find ways to reach other people with the care they need, but we often forget to include ourselves in that circle of kindness.
When we are only showing up but forgetting to include the tender part of compassion we burn out we get exhausted.
The magic is in the integration.
Kristin talks about if you’re too tender without being fierce you become complacent, but if you’re too fierce without being tender you end up striving and changing and feeling like you’re not getting anywhere. The magic is in the integration and embodying the feeling of both parts.
This practice is about:
- learning to accept ourselves amongst the challenges,
- bringing in tenderness towards ourselves so then we can actively show up in the world offering compassion both inward and outward.
Kristin calls this the yin/yang of compassion and you can’t have one without the other. The practice of integration is learning how to feel both fierce and tender.
Wisdom is learning that they can happen at the same time.
This is a powerful practice of learning to accept ourselves just the way we are so that we can create the fierce energy to cause changes for ourselves and the world around us.
What I loved about this conversation about integration:
I love how it all aligned so much with my own journey this year. My intention this year has been to show up in a bold way while slowing down at the same time. I saw a natural connection to this fierce and tender practice of compassion. I can see why I have this desire to align my boldness and slowness because when they are brought together they can create the capacity of presence and growth, expansion and groundedness.
And isn’t that how most of us want to feel?
Grounded in our own practice with the capacity to be expansive with the things we love.
It’s at the 20:05 mark that Kristin Neff shares the concept of integration.
Although it may feel abstract at first, when we practice meeting ourselves with kind and brave words we can start to feel the positive experience of compassion.
“I’m here for you”
“You have what it takes to get through this hard moment”
“Keep going, dear one.”
At 23:08 Kristin Neff shares that many educators feel like they don’t have time to add one more thing into their lives.
I love how she explains that it takes less time and effort to practice compassion than our usual habits of shame and self-criticism.
Shame and self-criticism take us down a path of rumination and worry and often get us caught up in some really bad thinking traps.
The time to practice self-compassion is when you are in pain, to meet the moment exactly where it is, and to give yourself what you need at that moment. You don’t have to practice self-compassion for 30 minutes every morning (you can if you want to) but the best practice happens when we are paying attention at the moment.
Modelling these practices for our students.
We wrap up this conversation by talking about how important these practices are to model for our students. Modeling our mistakes and meeting them with care and kindness rather than judgment allows our students to recognize that they too don’t need to get upset or angry about the mistakes they make in their life. Modeling and sharing these practices is the beginning of a shifting culture. Most organizations within their culture don’t support self-compassion, so it takes individuals to change the culture by communicating and connecting around self-compassion.
So a huge shout out to the changemakers, the compassionate friends, who are already showing up and sharing and practicing compassion in schools.
Know that your work is seen and that you’re not alone and that each time you show up in a compassionate way it starts to create the ripples of a compassionate community and culture. Thank you for your presence, keep doing what you’re doing!
If you want to watch more of my Teacher Talk Interviews, feel free to check them out on my Youtube Channel.