Episode 20: Seven Steps to Self Compassion

Ever wonder how to be more self compassionate? In this episode, we go deeper into the realm of self-compassion in order to find the resilience, confidence, and joy we all desire in life. We outline seven steps to becoming more self-compassionate and ways that we can use these steps to practice the skill and apply it in our lives.   We take a close look at the importance of staying neutral during moments of self-criticism. You’ll discover how our beliefs about our worth and value impact our lives, and how understanding our common humanity can help us feel less isolated. We’ll explore strategies for dealing with negative self-talk, and discuss how reaching out to others in times of struggle can make a significant difference.
Lastly, join us as we dive into the crucial role of self-compassion in parenting. We all need a little more this good stuff in our lives, so please join us as we study the steps to self compassion!

What you will learn on this episode:

– Understanding the concept of self-compassion and its importance in cultivating resilience, confidence, and joy

– Learning strategies to change your relationship with your inner critic

– Discovering the power of maintaining neutrality during moments of self-criticism

– Exploring the role of common humanity in reducing feelings of isolation

– Understanding the importance of reaching out to others when struggling with self-criticism and negative self-talk

– Learning how to lead by example and instill resilience and self-compassion in children

– Exploring the transformative impact of self-compassion on personal and parenting life.



Let’s Connect!

I absolutely love to hear your thoughts and get your questions. You can email me at:  Leighagermann@gmail.com

I can’t wait to hear from you!



This podcast is not intended to provide mental health treatment.  Leigh Germann is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and not a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist.  She does not provide diagnosis nor offer therapy through the LeighGermann.com website or in the information offered on the website. It is important that you do not disregard professional medical or mental health advice or delay seeking professional medical or mental health treatment because of any information on the LeighGermann.com website including but not limited to blogs, newsletter, videos, podcasts, e-books, programs, webinars, courses and other services. Leigh Germann and offerings on LeighGermann.com are not providing legal or financial advice, business advice, psychotherapy, supervision, religious advice, or medical advice. The information contained on this Website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

In today’s episode, we are going through the steps to self-compassion. This is Leadership Parenting, episode number 20. Did you know that resilience is the key to confidence and joy? As moms, it’s what we want for our kids, but it’s also what we need for ourselves. My name is Leigh Germann, I’m a therapist and I’m a mom. Join me as we explore the skills you need to know to be confident and joyful. Then get ready to teach these skills to your kids. This is Leadership Parenting, where you learn how to lead your family by showing them the way. Hi everyone, and welcome to Leadership Parenting. 

This is part two of our discussion on self-compassion, and I hope that you’ve been having a great week. And I was going to say I hope you didn’t hear from your inner critic this week, but that would be kind of counterproductive in light of what we’re teaching here, right? I think what I really want to say as we begin this episode is I hope you’ve had a chance to start to shift your relationship with your inner critic. Of course, we want the inner critic to show up less often and without as much pain in your life, but our real goal is to get good at knowing how you’ll work with her when she does show up. So your homework last week was to start to accept that you have an inner critic and to notice her voice, what she sounds like and what it feels like when she shows up, and to consider that maybe she isn’t your best option for motivation and start to consider what it might feel like to be on your own side, to have permission, to have your own back. And I’ve taken my own challenge and kept these questions top of mind this past week and it’s helped me, actually without having to do any particular process. Just thinking about having permission for me to be in support of myself, like it’s really been kind of freeing, and I think that’s so true for the things that we are learning. When I bring them to the surface and I bring them to the top of my mind, it really opens up the application in our lives. So even when we’re busy, we’ve got so much going on. You probably don’t have time to sit down with a notebook and kind of map all this stuff out and spend hours on it, but you don’t have to just holding an intent and intention in your mind to be open and mindful about these concepts, in particular giving yourself permission to be on your own side and to kind of open up your curiosity about that. It can make such a difference in our lives. So this is the power of this work your mind is so strong and amazing that even a slight consideration of this can start to free up new ways to think and feel about it. 

And I need this, especially this week, as I felt like I missed some deadlines. I got the stomach flu, which is never convenient, and it got in the way of a lot of things I had planned and I didn’t get everything done on my to-do list. And you know, sometimes I get to the end of my day and I feel beat up. You know this. Last week it was the stomach flu that beat me up, but other times it’s just like this emotional feeling of feeling kind of, you know, beat up. And inevitably when this happens it’s because I’ve had a day where I feel like maybe I’ve let people down or I’ve let myself down. 

And even though I know a lot about setting realistic expectations and being forgiving of imperfection, I can still find myself once in a while sucked into that painful vortex of self-criticism. Why didn’t I call that client to let them know I was running late? Why didn’t I remember it was my friend’s birthday last week? How could I be so selfish to snap at my husband when he brought home the wrong kind of flower, when I knew he was just trying to help me out? I didn’t even start the project I promised myself I’d be done with by now. How can I even think I could be successful at this? That’s just a little peek into some of my own thought processes that can kind of wear me down, and it’s shocking to realize that I’m pretty brutal to myself and I’d never dream of saying any of these things to someone else. 

Well, as I talk with women about the way they think of themselves and speak to themselves, I find I am not alone in this. We’re all kind of battling that inner criticism, and that’s not just because we’re broken. Something’s wrong with us, because there’s a pattern laid down in our brains and it kind of flips on when we deal with negative things in our life. And that’s why I think it’s important to know that all of us have this tendency to one degree or another, because we all have brains and self-criticism can very much be a brain thing, so that inner critic is stuck in this old way of thinking, immature ways of thinking in trying to keep us safe, and I think it’s helpful to recognize that those she’s trying to protect us. We can do a much better job protecting ourselves and helping ourselves through it by using our higher brains, and our higher brains can kind of help us use that self-compassion we’re talking about. So that little three-step challenge last week that I gave you guys, I needed it this week and it actually helped me and I’m hoping that it will help you too. My guess is you might need it too, because I bet your life gets a little crazy at your house like it does at mine. So let’s review what self-compassion is and go through some steps to applying it in our lives, and we’ll still weave in and out of this whole concept how criticism kind of comes in and provides this counter to what we’re trying to do with self-compassion, and hopefully you’ll be able to see what that dance looks like and we’re going to strengthen our ability to be self-compassionate. 

So self-compassion is the process of turning toward yourself with the purpose of helping yourself. It involves being supportive, kind and sometimes even firm in reminding you of what is true and helpful to you. And it’s also easy to confuse self-compassion with making excuses or letting yourself off the hook or even being narcissistic. I’ve had a lot of pushback on that. When I’ve talked with people about self-compassion, they’ll say, well, if I do this, then I am letting myself off the hook. Or I know someone who does this all the time. They take no responsibility for anything and it drives me crazy, so I want nothing to do with that. I’d much rather be hard on myself. So I show up and I do what I need to do to be a better person and I’m like I think we’re mixing those things up. It’s not narcissistic. It’s not letting yourself off the hook to show yourself kindness and support. 


Being self-compassionate is the healthiest and most responsible thing you can do. It becomes that steadying force that allows you to recognize that, yes, you are imperfect and yes, you deserve room to make mistakes and room to be treated with understanding and kindness. And when you can do that there is space that’s made Is to see yourself more clearly and make the changes you need to make, because self-compassion actually helps us take responsibility for our choices and our actions, because we’re not destroyed inside by those mistakes. You know what usually happens when we’re pinned to the ground by self-criticism we go one of two ways, kind of in that critical trap that we’re in as humans. We either get defensive and try to escape responsibility by deflecting or disowning or excusing or even denying our behavior, or we go the other way and fall on the sword and bleed with regret and feel powerless and fearful to try again, so unworthy and so full of fear that it can immobilize us and I’ve actually seen relationships crumble because of one of these two ways that people cope with harsh self-criticism. 


But with self-compassion there is hope and there is light. And that’s why I like to talk about self-compassion as reaching for light, because it creates safety, enough sense that we can survive the mistakes and try again and that we can bear the pain that comes with not doing exactly what we want to do or disappointing someone, and we can separate out the actions from who we are. That is central self and we can learn from them and learn about life and make meaning of it. And that space lets us heal and try again. And that’s the critical part and this is what’s needed in relationships to be able to repair and recover. So self-compassion is no fluffy kind of off the hook kind of thing. It is powerful, it is showing up, it’s being accountable and it’s staying by your own side. Okay, you can tell I am passionate about self-compassion because that is actually one of my biggest tools in helping people crawl out of the hole of depression, to get out of that fear cycle and anxiety, and to heal the relationships when we’re doing couples work or when we’re working on healing a relationship in a family or with a dear friendship. So self-compassion is something that we want to be good at. 


Okay, how can we start to practice self-compassion? So I want to outline I think it’s seven steps I’ve got to start becoming more self-compassionate. Step number one is to be mindful of what you’re feeling During a period of suffering, when you’re really feeling disappointed or you’re noticing that you’ve said or done something or not done something that makes you feel uncomfortable. Being mindful of your feelings, just noticing them, to slow the process down and focus for a few seconds on the feelings we’re having. And a great tool to help you do this is that emotional body check that we’ve been talking about in earlier episodes, through how you connect with yourself or you put your hand on your chest and you check in to see how you’re feeling and you ask yourself these questions. What am I feeling? Where is it in my body? How big is it so? Compassion researchers suggest that if we can name the painful feeling that we’re having and just acknowledge I’m hurting right now, we will open up the process to inviting self-compassion in. So that’s step number one. 


Okay, number two once you begin practicing step number one, you’re probably going to be able to hear a self-critical voice. It’ll be easier to identify and you’ll quickly realize what that voice sounds like, what her favorite catchphrases are, which of your inadequacies are her favorite to point out. And it’s important to stay in observation mode as much as you can during this step. You’re trying to retrain your brain to do something different, so I want you to kind of observe it without buying into it. Like we all have our favorite phrases that go through our head like, oh, that was so stupid, I’m so stupid. That’s one of mine. And the funny thing is is that I never look at someone and say, oh you, that was so stupid, you are so stupid. The only person I ever say that to is me. And if I can just notice that and think about it and hear it and say, oh, there’s the critic, there she is, here, she’s talking to me that’s her favorite phrase I can start to kind of push pause, slow this down a little bit and start to recognize that that is actually an automated response. It’s coming up without me having to think about it or plan for it and I can almost just notice it as a habit. And habits can be tough to break, but they can be broken. And noticing and acknowledging that critical voice will be a big step in breaking that. First, you know, kind of knee-jerk response that you have trained yourself to react with. Even though you don’t think you’ve trained yourself, the fact that we’ve thought about it over and over and over again is is how it’s laid down in the neural networks in our brain. So just noticing it is going to help us change the pathway to something different. 


Step number three stay neutral. And I love this step because a lot of times we hear take your negative thoughts and switch them around. Instead of saying I’m so stupid, like what am I supposed to say? I’m so intelligent. That can be very hard to say. It could be a really big stretch when I’m feeling pain around something that I’m disappointed in or that I think I really should have done better. But if all I can do is think about being neutral instead of trying to go, you know way over to the other side, and being positive. I can get to neutral a lot easier. 


A trick in doing this is to think of your inner critic as a voice with an opinion. What she’s saying to you is not the truth, though it kind of may feel that way. She’s voicing a very negative opinion because, in a twisted way, she’s trying to protect you, remember. So these thoughts are misguided. So just because we hear them doesn’t mean we need to believe them. It doesn’t mean that they’re true, and so we want to switch over to neutral and try saying instead something like this hold on, these statements aren’t facts. I’m not going to cast judgment on myself either way. Right now I’m going through a tough time. This is painful. I don’t have to assume I’m wrong, and I don’t think being harsher critical is going to help me get through this. 


Right now it’s kind of like you’re stepping in to kind of break up a fight between your kids and what you’re trying to say is hold up, let’s just take a look at this. Don’t say anything, mean. Don’t say anything you’re going to regret. Let’s just acknowledge that you’re upset right now and let’s see what we can do to get through it. And staying neutral is helpful because it’s a mid step, it’s halfway out of the criticism, without having to go all the way to the nurturing, although that’s where you want to end up eventually. Just notice that you’re doing something to move you in that direction. You’re not arguing about the criticism you’re hearing, you’re just choosing not to be swayed by it and believe it. And this starts to give us a little bit of control back. It begins to empower us. Step number four we’re gonna make some important decisions here. 


This is usually the very core of the problem. When self-criticism is raging, we don’t feel worthy of kindness. We only really feel deserving of that harsh criticism. And this requires a really kind of deep thoughtful dive into your beliefs, one that may take you a little bit into that philosophical realm. Do you believe all human beings should be treated with kindness? How about respect? So if you’re used to harsh internal criticism, it can seem reasonable that you’re possibly the only human being on earth that shouldn’t qualify for kindness, fairness or you guessed it compassion. 


But don’t believe that. It’s a lie. It may be a well-practiced lie and it may be easy for you to believe, but it is a lie nonetheless. You may have even been told that lie outright by a parent or a teacher or someone who has not treated you well, but if you examine it objectively, it can’t hold up to scrutiny. The statement that you are not worthy of kindness or patience or love simply is not true. So we want everyone, all of us, to claim the status of a human being, and that’s all. Just give yourself the same consideration that you would give to other people. I don’t have to qualify for this. I am human and therefore I have innate worth. And because of the negativity bias in our brains, we selectively pick and choose what we focus on, and this applies to when we see our worth and our value as human beings and when we don’t, and most of us think more harshly about ourselves than we do others. So step number four involves you kind of getting philosophically where you consider yourself in the same light as those around you. You have worth and you have value and you are deserving of fairness and kindness. 


Ok, number five it’s time to embrace that common humanity that Kristin Neff talks about and recognize that all of us experience suffering and imperfection and that we are not alone in this, and I think this really helps us feel connected to others in their struggles so that we can reduce feelings of isolation. And it’s that isolation that makes our suffering even greater. When you think you’re the only one who experiences suffering, you’re probably going to feel shame and loneliness, and your inner critic eats shame for dessert. The worse you feel, the more shame you have and the more this waste can hammer you. So when you accept the fact that you’re human and you look at these thoughts and these feelings through that lens, you rejoin the herd and find safety, because all of us are imperfect. 


You know, most therapists are trained to not share their personal information with their clients in order to keep a professional relationship, and I think that’s changing a little bit, and I’m glad about that because I think it’s so important that we’re real with each other. And Every once in a while I will share with my clients how much I’ve struggled, and do at times still struggle with inner criticism, and most of the time they’re astounded which always surprises me that they think I have everything all together. But when I share with them my own humanity and imperfection, they almost always notice their shame and their inner criticism Lessons, and this is the power of common humanity. This is why it’s important to reach toward people Rather than pull away from them, and I think talking about our feelings is vital. You know, talking to other people about how we’re feeling is vital and undoing this habit that kind of goes in our heads Silently. This the way that we’re thinking critically about ourselves, because it lets us hear and see the thoughts we’re having and get some realistic feedback from people that we trust. 


And you know I had this experience happen to me when I was able to talk through some really painful thoughts and feelings I was having having. I was walking down a hallway and I passed a fairly new friend that I had just met and as I passed by her, I said, hi, beth, which would have been a perfectly nice thing to say, except her name is not Beth and the moment it came out of my mouth like I could see this look of confusion on her face and you know she rallied pretty quickly. She smiled a little and waved and we kept walking. We, I could feel it like. Almost immediately I knew I had made this mistake. Oh my gosh, it’s gonna think you’re such a shallow person. You spent the whole afternoon with her yesterday and she told you how hard it is for her to make friends. And you messed up her name. I Like I could feel my face getting hot and my breathing getting shallow and that inner voice, that inner critic, kind of just started railing. What kind of friend are you? She trusted you to tell you that you shouldn’t make mistakes like that. How could you be so insensitive? 


By the time I got to where I was going, I was literally sweating. My other friend who was with me, she kind of Saw the look on my face and she put her hand on my arm. Are you okay? She asked. I Told her what I just done, as if I was confessing like this terrible crime. Oh my gosh, you poor thing, I’m so sorry, she said. And Then she started talking like really fast, because I, you know, tears were I just I don’t know why it bothered me so intensely. Well, I do, because I really care. I really care that people know I care about them and I totally called her the wrong name and I was just beating myself up and this friend of mine she just started talking and she started talking fast. I’ve done that so many times. It feels so awful. You have so much going on, your brain has to be swimming with names. I bet you could catch her before she leaves tonight. Let’s go find her. You could tell her you realized you called her by the wrong name. It will all be okay, like she was trying everything she could think of to make me feel better. And you know, as she was talking and as I listened to myself and as I saw how kind she was and I started to feel a little bit better, my face cooled off, my heart started to slow down and normal. I didn’t feel like I was gonna, you know, burst into tears. 


When we’re shown compassion, we start to heal our hurt and get strong enough to forgive our imperfection or at least accept it and possibly figure out what we can do to make it better. And I was able to. I was able to go find that friend before she left. I was able to kind of grab her hand and say, ah, I caught you by the wrong name. I know your name. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, I’m. I just am so glad that I was able to find you. I just felt so bad about that and she was so gracious and she just kind of put her arm around me and gave me a big hug. 


But I needed to be able to talk through that with someone and thankfully I had a friend there, and you know who talks about this a lot is Brené Brown. She talks about shame, not being able to live in the light, and I think that that’s what happened when I was able to kind of talk through it with my friend. I brought it out of the darkness of my thinking where it was just rolling around and around and criticism, and I was able to see it with a different bit of light on it and my friend was able to kind of help me see it in a different way. So, whether you’re showing up for yourself or whether you’re bringing someone else in to help show up for you, what you’re doing is you’re you’re compassionately addressing the painful situation that you’re going through and that’s going to give you strength to go and decide how you’re going to address it. And that leads us to step number five give yourself permission to be imperfect. You know, my daughter-in-law has a grandmother who, when she’d make a mistake, her grandmother would tell her that everyone gets ten mistakes a day and this was just one of her ten. And what a great way to frame being human and imperfect. It’s literally impossible to be perfect, and that’s probably my favorite realization of all time. If something is impossible, shouldn’t we surrender to the truth and embrace the fact that we’re all going to be making mistakes and it’s okay? When you hear that inner critic railing on you for something you forgot or someone you let down, practice saying this out loud. Well, I just made one of my quota of mistakes today. I guess that’s a reminder that I’m human. Not only will you feel a little comforted, but those around you, especially your kids, will learn how to gracefully acknowledge mistakes without letting them crush you, and it will open the way for you to decide how you’re going to resolve and repair. 


Number six showing kindness. This is the step where we really start to enact change Showing kindness to yourself in the midst of an inner struggle, and it has the power to radically change your life. What we want to do is flip the frame a little bit. If you had a friend who told you the wrong name story, would you show her compassion? Remember the self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff statistics 75% of us are more compassionate to others than we are to ourselves. This is why showing ourselves, the kindness we show others is one of the most powerful steps in growing and strengthening our self-compassion. 


The next time that inner critic goes off in your head, take a deep breath and pause and in that little gap, imagine your best friend standing before you, those harsh thoughts coming at her like arrows ready to pierce her heart. What would you say to her if she was feeling and thinking the things you are experiencing? How would you defend her? If it were me, I’d get her attention, I’d look her in the eye and I would give her my best. I love you, you’re wonderful and don’t feel like you have to be perfect speech. I’d fight for her. So guess what we get to do for ourselves? We get to fight for ourselves. Show up and give ourselves a little kindness. Well, that’s the basic self-compassion formula, except for maybe, one last step. I want you to notice, as you try to be more self-compassionate, that you may hear the voice of your critic judging you on how well you’re doing at being compassionate, and it might even go right to telling you how bad you are and how you’re failing at it. 


So step number seven is be aware of being critical. About being critical, this stuff is hard. It’s like swimming against the river current of your brain’s old way of thinking. But now is a time for another dose of self-compassion. So when you notice the critic criticizing your criticizing, take a deep breath. You’re not alone. All of us are working on this. We can’t yell at our inner critic and hope to shut her up, but we can one be mindful of our feelings. Two recognize when the inner critic is speaking. Start to get good at noticing her. 


Number three consider being neutral and taking just that first step in considering that there might be another way to look at this. Number four make a decision that you deserve fairness and kindness, just as other human beings. Number five remember you’re not alone. All of us are working on this. Number six start to show yourself kindness by thinking about how you might treat someone that you care about and that you’re protective of. And number seven notice when you’re starting to be critical, about being critical. 


Well, we are going to be revisiting self-compassion off and on, throughout everything we do, because it is a core principle and a tool and a skill that helps us be resilient. So I’m grateful for your interest, I’m grateful that you’ve spent this time today and I hope that you’ll look at this list. I’m going to put it in the show notes so that you can see it, remember. It feels kind of like a long list, but they’re really just little micro steps, little things to help you keep in mind, to help you put self-compassion into more of a pattern in your life and start to rewrite the program in your brain and give another pathway for your thoughts and your feelings to go when we’re going through a hard time. Well, that’s all for today. 


I’m wishing you much compassion this week and I hope that you are feeling a sense of excitement about these concepts that we’re learning. They are so powerful and as you’re starting to implement them in your life, I want you to know that they’re going to feel so much more familiar to you and they’re going to be able to be communicated to your children, and that’s another way that you can apply all the things that we’ve been talking about around self-compassion. You’ll be able to watch your kids. I want you to watch when they are practicing self-compassion, when they’re being kind to themselves, when they’re not kind of beating themselves up. I want you to notice how that looks and I want you to notice when they need a little bit of your compassion to guide them so that they can get a sense of what that sounds like from you and they can start practicing applying that to themselves. So this is all coming together the better we get at it, the better we’re going to be able to lead our kids in doing it as well. So I will look forward to talking to you next week. Take good care. 


The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again and take care.

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