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Serena: Hey Everyone, I’m Serena.
Tina: And I’m Tina and we are the Mental Health Mamas.
Serena: Welcome to No Need to Explain, we are so glad you’re here.
Tina: First, as always, a quick disclaimer.
Serena: We come to you NOT as mental health professionals or experts in the field, but rather as the parents of kids who struggle with their emotional health.
Tina: If you or someone you love is experiencing a mental health crisis, please seek professional support. You’ll find a variety of resources in our show notes and on our website, NoNeedToExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: I’d like to start today’s episode by sharing a little story. This story is about a friend of mine who called me the other day and when I answered the phone, the first words out of her mouth were, “Tell me I’m not an idiot”.
Tina: And how did you respond to that, Serena?
Serena: I said, “Tina, you are definitely not an idiot”.
Tina: Yes, OK. That’s true. And then I remember you asking me a question.
Serena: Yes. I asked you if you would ever call me an idiot.
Tina: And of course the answer is never ever ever.
Serena: Right. And the same is true for me. There are so many things that go on in my head (directed at myself) that I would never say to anyone else. I can be so mean to myself, yet I don’t ever think of myself as a mean person.
Tina: Clearly, that’s the case for me as well.
Serena: Self-compassion is something I’ve been working on and thinking a lot about lately. Can we talk about self-compassion today?
Tina: Yes, let’s do it!
Serena: When I think about self-compassion, Dr. Kristen Neff is the person who comes to mind as kind of the leader in this field. She’s a researcher and her website is filled with lots of resources and information about self-compassion and we will provide a link to it in our notes. I really like the way she defines self-compassion.
Tina: Yes. Me too. And she says, Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, when you fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Serena: And then she talks about self-compassion being made up of three different elements: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.
Tina: So let’s take a minute to break down each of those elements. Self-kindness vs self-judgment. It’s essentially what we were just talking. If (or when) I make a mistake, can I be kind to myself or do I perhaps call myself an idiot?
Serena: Mmm. Right. I know many people who are incredibly kind, you included Tina, and compassionate toward others but are so hard on themselves. I’ve been trying to shift that for myself and notice when I’m not being kind to myself. One thing I have noticed is that if I’m struggling with one aspect of my life, that self-judging voice suddenly has a lot to say about ALL parts of my life. I have an image in my head of Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh walking around with a little gray cloud over his head. Yeah, it’s just following me everywhere.
Tina: And as you know Serena I usually think of myself and identify as Tigger, I guess I too have a bit of Eeyore floating around in my head when it comes to those messages and clearly some of them come out of my mouth! So what about the next element?
Serena: So the second element of self-compassion according to Dr. Neff is common humanity vs isolation. She refers to this as an irrational, but pervasive sense of being “the only one”. This is a tough one because when we’re deep down in it, it can be hard to not feel like you’re the only one.
Tina: Yeah. I think that this is a good time to kind of normalize that “deep down in it” feeling of parenting in general. Being in a public place and your child is experiencing a meltdown. All you can focus on is that child, right then and there. What often went through my head at the very same time I was trying to be compassionate toward my child, I heard all of the various committee members in my head questioning if I was doing this parenting thing right!! Maybe I should...fill in the blank. Maybe I shouldn’t...fill in the blank.
Serena: Yeah. So, I think the idea is to recognize that while someone else may not have the same experience as you and as we always say, no one can truly walk in anyone else’s shoes, what we do share is the human experience of suffering. When we focus on the feelings and the shared struggle it helps us feel a little less alone.
Tina: Mmhm. And let's talk about that third element. The third element of self-compassion is mindfulness vs over-identification. Mindfulness can be a bit of a buzzword, but I think the idea of mindfulness here is being in the present moment and noticing without judgment.
Serena: OK, so this is a hard one too. We’re acknowledging our feelings and our circumstances without judgment. There’s a technique used in meditation when your mind wanders and you literally label it and try to let it go. You might say, “thinking” or “feeling” or “that’s a thought”, “that’s a feeling” and then you try to let that go. We can do the same thing with self-compassion. You might try saying, “this is a moment of suffering”.
Tina: Right. There’s something freeing about labeling it. Just naming it for what it is. It makes me think of the first step of non-violent communication.
Serena: Yes! Which is a big topic in and of itself, but the idea is that before being able to effectively communicate with someone else, we have to start with ourselves. Always. How am I feeling? Am I in a good place to have what might be a challenging conversation with someone else? I think practicing self-compassion is a lot like that.
Tina: Exactly. If we treat ourselves with compassion, we are better able to act compassionately toward others. And in a previous episode we talked about that kind of dinosaur brain and if we aren’t acknowledging our feelings then we perhaps stay in that fight, flight, freeze place instead of heading up to that reasoning part of our brain.
Serena: Right. And it’s such a good thing to remember that self-compassion is not, or I should say compassion is not, it’s not a finite resource. The more self-compassion we practice, the more compassion we will have to share with others, like our kids.
Tina: Mmhm. So what do we do if we’re just not really feeling it? What if we’re deep down in it and can’t tap into that self-compassion?
Serena: Well, that might be a great time to call a friend!
Tina: Call a friend! Like I do every time I might want to call myself an idiot.
Serena: Right. I also think there are a lot of little things you can do to move closer to self-compassion and that might look very different for different people. What helps you Tina?
Tina: So again, calling a friend, any kind of connection is my go to. My dogs are always that safe place for non-judgement and release. I’d also say that I’m really embracing this time of year and taking a walk or just stepping outside and listening to the birds sing.
Serena: I love that you mentioned your dogs. I feel like dogs are a complete embodiment of that non-judgment. So, some of the things that help me are very similar to things I might also do for self care, but generally involve making space for myself. I like to spend a few minutes doing some guided meditation. There are two different apps I use and both are very accessible meditations even if you’ve never tried it before. This is something that I explored with these two apps. The first one is Shine which offers a different free meditation every day. And then I also use Headspace and they also have some free content and they even have some content for kids which I will say my 6-year-old loves.
Tina: There are a lot of great resources out there including a variety of self-compassion exercises on Dr. Neff’s website and links to many other resources.
Serena: As we bring this episode to a close today, here are the things we hope you are hearing…
Tina: It is important to give yourself the same kindness that you extend to others.
Serena: Suffering is a common human experience regardless of what causes the suffering. You are not alone.
Tina: And we really want you to hear this. None of this is easy.
Serena: And you have permission to practice self-compassion.
Tina: Yes! Permission slip granted! And so podcast friends, we are, as always, very grateful to all of you for listening and supporting us. You can help us out by visiting Apple podcasts, leave a review, and subscribe and please share with others. You will also find more content on our website, NoNeedtoExplainPodcast.com.
Serena: And this is your gentle reminder to take good care of yourself while you are also taking care of your people.
Tina: Thanks for listening!