Send yourself a little Chocolat’

“One taste is all it takes…..”  Chocolat’, a classic movie, follows Juliette Binoche as she opens a chocolate shop in a conservative town full of bitter, sad and lonely people. Juliette stirs a little kindness and nurture into the chocolate pot, and soon, everyone is changed. You know the human value of kindness towards others. Now, flip the mirror. How compassionate are you toward yourself? Are you kinder to strangers?

Are you one of those people who avoids the notion altogether? This is a dangerous idea.

-If compassion doesn't include yourself it is incomplete.-

Compassion shown to yourself makes a difference in whether you survive and thrive. Studies prove that it’s not what you face in life, but how you relate to yourself when the going gets tough. (Do you think of yourself as your own ally or as deficient?) This perception determines your ability to cope successfully. Do you expect yourself to do it all, and then beat yourself up when you fall short? I’m betting you do.

Aaron told himself to stay strong, maintain being a ‘tough guy’ during his divorce. He believed that hiding his feelings and not admitting to how much pain he was in, was what would get him through. But instead, it kept him stuck, feeling miserable, and angry. He saw compassion for himself as a weakness.

Is your reluctance to extend kindness to yourself based on the premise that it will make you weak? Do you resist thoughtfulness toward yourself because you feel it will undermine motivation to push forward?

Your best friend comes to you and shares how overwhelmed she is. She is having trouble coping with everything she has to do.  Would you say, “What’s wrong with you? You loser. Suck it up and get busy!”

You wouldn’t talk to a friend like that. But you might talk to yourself that way. The pain caused by self judgement is significant. “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not ________ enough.” Studies now prove that self compassion is a far more effective method for personal motivation than self punishment.

In our work together, I help my clients learn how to move from self judgement to self acceptance. And that is the beginning of tremendous growth and accomplishment.

What does self compassion look like?

Self compassion is caring for yourself and accepting your feelings, struggles and pain.

Acknowledge that (this moment, challenge, transition) is hard. Don’t push it away, but ‘be’ with that. Say “This is hard. I’m doing the best I can.” Then, stick with me here, close your eyes and send yourself love. (If you’re feeling awkward, that’s resistance. Try it anyway.) Imagine a shower of love pouring down. Some call this grace. Let this good feeling flow through you. Self compassion builds your capacity for love, wisdom, courage and generosity toward yourself and for others. It’s not weakness or laziness to send some kindness to yourself. It is smart.

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(This article inspired by “The Five Myths of Self Compassion” by Kristin Neff, PhD. Published on the website Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. September 30, 2015.)
Chocolat’ is a 2000 movie directed by Lasse Halltrom, starring Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench and Alfred Molina.