When you’re in the midst of family struggles and crises, self-compassion might be the last thing on your mind. After all, you’re probably overwhelmed with trying to keep on top of everyone else’s needs.
You might be juggling their medical or treatment appointments and paperwork on top of daily tasks. Financial challenges and shortfalls may be wreaking havoc in your life and theirs. The possibilities, unfortunately, are endless when it comes to what you might be dealing with.
You’re probably so preoccupied with trying to support your struggling loved one, pausing to show yourself compassion seems like a luxury you can’t afford. The opposite is true, however.
What Is Self-Compassion?
Many people mistakenly assume that self-compassion is the same thing as self-pity — but it’s not. Giving yourself the grace of self-compassion is nothing like self-pity.
This approach doesn’t mean that you ignore or downplay your suffering because of what your loved one is going through. It also doesn’t mean that you let yourself wallow in your anger or become bitter about what you’re going through.
Instead, self-compassion happens when you give yourself the same patience, kindness, and understanding that you would want someone else to provide.
Think about times when you have struggled in life. Who were the people who helped and encouraged you the most? How did they do it? Take that same attitude toward yourself. Acknowledge your pain, but be kind to yourself.
Why Self-Compassion Is Crucial
Self-compassion is essential for many reasons, including physiological as well as emotional reasons. Your heart rate slows when you practice self-compassion; you’ll feel less stressed and more hopeful. It helps you let go of your anger about the situation. Self-compassion allows you to discover the power of being proactive about your situation.
How It Helps You Support a Struggling Loved One
Self-compassion allows you to validate your worth and needs. As you do this, you’ll find strength for the emotional difficulty that comes from walking alongside someone else through their tough times. It will help you have more compassion for everyone around you, including your struggling loved one.
How to Practice It
Learning to practice self-compassion may not come naturally to you. After all, our culture puts great value on self-reliance and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps. And this cultural attitude can make self-compassion feel unnatural and even like a weakness when you’re first learning it.
But like anything else in life, taking small steps of practice can lead to more remarkable skill and implementation. As you learn to replace unhelpful thoughts about yourself with those that are positive and compassionate, you’ll notice a significant difference.
You can begin by noticing when you push feelings of discomfort, anger, discouragement, or sadness away. Acknowledge them and avoid judging yourself. Instead, notice how you feel, and tell yourself it’s okay to feel how you need to feel.
A therapist can also help you learn how to put self-compassion into action if it feels like a stumbling block. They can work with you on ways to build your self-compassion and overcome emotional hurdles in practicing it. If shame or too much self-sufficiency is in the way, they can walk you through those situations.
If you’re in the middle of dealing with a loved one’s crisis, whether it be mental health, addiction, or other, working with a therapist can offer invaluable benefits.
I specialize in coming alongside people in your situation to help them move forward with strength and dignity. If you’re ready to learn more, please reach out to my office or visit my Support For Family Members page to request a free initial phone consultation.