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S2 EP165 – The Vital Importance of Self-Compassion

Episode Summary

Do you believe that someone, other than you, has to give you compassion for you to manage your painful feelings? Do you have false beliefs getting in the way of self-compassion? Do you understand the difference between self-pity and self-compassion? Discover how to be compassionate with yourself, and how this choice moves you into your personal power and emotional freedom.


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding podcast. Today I want to speak about a subject that is dear to my heart – self-compassion.

We all have a deep need for compassion. When we were little, one of the major things we all needed from our parents or caregivers was their compassion for our painful feelings – especially our loneliness, helplessness over others, grief, and heartbreak. Yet few of us received this comfort and understanding.

I didn’t. I don’t recall a single time when either of my parents showed any compassion for whatever pain I was in – physical or emotional. I remember many times when I was very young – maybe three or four years old – sobbing because my mother had screamed at me for something. Usually, she would just walk away, shaking her head in judgment, or screaming at me some more as she left me alone. And, of course, I never saw anyone show compassion or kindness for themselves.

Having no role models for bringing compassion to myself, I kept trying, in my adult relationships, to get others to show me the compassion I needed. I tried so many ways – crying, pleading, getting angry, being depressed, giving myself up, being ‘nice’ – but nothing ever worked. I constantly ended up feeling alone and victimized by my pain. I couldn’t understand it. I was often compassionate with others, so why weren’t they compassionate with me?

It took many years of my personal Inner Bonding practice to come to the acceptance that it wasn’t anyone else’s job to give me the compassion that I needed. It was my job. Not that I don’t love it when someone is compassionate with me – I do. But I no longer count on it or pull for it in all my previously controlling ways.

Nor do I give it to others with the expectation that they will give it to me – which I used to do. I give it to others when I know that it is loving – not caretaking – to do so.

I notice that in much of my work with others, there is often a huge pull for compassion. Couples try to get it from each other. Individuals try to get it from me. And every way they try to get it is self-abandoning.

Learning to bring compassion to your hurting inner child is a vital part of your healing. When your heart is open to learning, the energy of compassion naturally comes in from spirit. When your intent is to love yourself, then you can give yourself the compassion you need.

I do this in a number of ways. When I’m very sad and I need to cry, I either hold my little girl in bed, or go for a walk in a secluded place. I need to be able to cry without disturbing anyone else. As I’m crying, I’m bringing through the compassion with my hands on my heart, letting my little girl know that she is not alone with the loneliness, heartbreak, or the very difficult feeling of helplessness over others’ unloving behavior. I’m here and my guidance is here. Sometimes, I write on my computer, asking my guidance for help in comforting myself.

I cry until I feel that the feelings have moved through me and have been released. This generally doesn’t take very long.

The main thing that helps me release the feelings is being in full acceptance that no one else is going to do this for me. I used to get very stuck in my pain when I was focused on getting someone else to be compassionate toward me. In fact, being in pain was a major way I would pull for compassion, hoping someone would care enough about me to see me, hold me, listen, and understand.

Now I see me and hold me. I listen. I understand. If someone does show up to join me in being compassionate with my little girl, great! But I no longer focus on this, and I no longer wait for it.

It’s truly wonderful to be free of needing someone else to give me what I am fully equipped to give myself!

Why is it so hard for some people to have compassion for themselves? Many people find it fairly easy to have compassion for the suffering of others so why not for themselves?

Before going into this, I want to define what I mean by compassion. When we are feeling compassionate toward others, we feel moved by their pain. Our heart is open, and if we are also capable of empathy, we can feel their feelings within us. When we are acting on our compassionate feelings toward someone, we show our caring for them with understanding, empathy, gentleness, tenderness, and kindness.

If your best friend calls in pain, or your child comes home from a play-date distraught, or your partner had a very difficult day at work, you might take compassionate action by being very kind, caring, understanding, empathic, gentle, and tender with him or her. If you tend to be an empathic person, your compassionate behavior is likely natural to you – you don’t even have to think about it. 

Do you do the same thing for yourself when you are hurting? If not, why not?

Here are some of the false beliefs I’ve discovered regarding why it may be hard for you to have compassion for yourself. Do you believe:

  • That focusing on caring about yourself is selfish and self-centered – that you are supposed to care about others instead of yourself?
  • That you are not worthy of compassion toward yourself?
  • That you don’t know how?
  • That it’s not going to do much for you because only others’ caring and compassion feels good?
  • That having compassion for yourself is self-indulgent? That it will make you lazy, and you won’t get things done, and that you need to be hard on yourself to keep yourself in line? 

I’m going to go through each of these beliefs and talk about why they are false.

  • Focusing on caring about yourself is selfish and self-centered – that you are supposed to care about others instead of yourself.

When you care about others without also caring about yourself, then you might expect others to do the same for you. You might be giving to get. Part of the definition of selfishness is expecting others to give themselves up and do for you what you need to be doing for yourself. Caring about yourself with deep compassion for yourself fills you up with love, which you can then share with others.

  • You’re not worthy of compassion toward yourself.

Would you actually say this about someone else? Isn’t the essence of each of us deserving of love? While it isn’t really your job to be compassionate toward another’s wounded self, unless you are a therapist, the wounded self does not heal without self-compassion – and this is your responsibility. Saying you are not worthy of compassion is a way of avoiding personal responsibility.

  • You don’t know how.

This is often a favorite way of avoiding responsibility for ourselves. When I ask a person who believes that they don’t know how to be compassionate toward themselves, if they know how to be kind to another, they generally say “Of course.” It’s a matter of intent.

  • It’s not going to do much for you. Only others’ caring and compassion feel good.

This is a major false belief of the wounded self. If you were to shift your intent from getting love to loving yourself and others, you would quickly discover that this is not at all true.

  • Having compassion for yourself is self-indulgent. It will make you lazy and you won’t get things done. You need to be hard on yourself to keep yourself in line.

One of the most common false beliefs of the wounded self is that judging yourself is a good way of getting yourself to do things and do them right. All research into this shows the opposite is true – the more self-compassion, the more motivation.

The feeling of compassion, like the feeling of love, is what enters our hearts from spirit when we are open to learning about loving ourselves and others. True kindness and caring for ourselves and others are the loving acts that naturally result when our intent is be loving to ourselves.

You always have the choice to choose kindness and compassion or harshness and judgment toward yourself. 

What if, when you are aware of your wounded feelings – your anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame and so on – you choose to be kind and gentle toward these feelings? You can then move into the Six Steps of Inner Bonding to discover how you are abandoning yourself – what you are telling yourself and how you are treating yourself – that is causing your feelings. In understanding and moving into truth, you will feel better.

What if, when you are aware of your wounded feelings, you ignore them, move into judgment toward them, blot them out with addictions, or make someone else responsible for them? It is likely that you will then end up feeling even worse from compounding the self-abandonment.

What if, when you are aware of your existential painful feelings of life – your sadness, sorrow, loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, grief, or helplessness over others – instead of avoiding these feeling with various addictions and other forms of self-abandonment – you embrace them with caring, tenderness, gentleness and kindness toward yourself – all acts that show compassion? When you make this choice, you open the door to these feelings moving through you, rather than getting stuck in you due to avoiding them with your various addictions and other forms of control.

When you make the conscious choice to be kind, caring and gentle with yourself and others, your heart opens, and then compassion comes into your heart. It is the choice to be kind and caring that opens your heart to the power of compassion.

Do you know what kindness is? Do you know what gentleness is? Do you know what tenderness is? I’m sure you do. Most people have the ability to choose to be kind and gentle with others. What about choosing to be kind and gentle with yourself?

It’s about wanting to be loving to yourself and with others. If you wanted to be kind and gentle with yourself, would you judge yourself? No, because it is not loving to yourself. Would you ignore your feelings? No, because it is not kind. Would you attempt to blot out your feelings and fill your emptiness with food, alcohol, drugs, TV, spending, blame, anger, caretaking, or any other addiction? No, because it is not kind to yourself. Would you pull on others to be kind to you, rather than being kind to yourself? No, you wouldn’t, because it is unloving to yourself to make others responsible for you.

On the other hand, would you be unkind to others – blaming them, judging them, ignoring them, rejecting them? No, because it is not kind to yourself to be unkind to others. It is never loving to ourselves to treat others badly, so when your guiding light is to be kind and loving to yourself, you will naturally be kind and loving to others.

Why not decide today to make kindness – with yourself and others – your guiding light? Being a kind person will bring you far more joy than being a reactive person and allowing others to determine who you want to be. Try focusing on kindness each moment and see how you end up feeling. You might discover your personal power and emotional freedom!

In my first session with Angie, she told me that she wanted to work on compassion.

“I don’t feel compassion for myself. I am compassionate with others, but I can’t seem to feel it for myself.”

“Angie, when you are compassionate with others, are you feeling compassionate or are you being compassionate?”

Angie thought about this for a moment. “I’m being compassionate,” she said.

“Angie, when you invite compassion into your heart for your feelings, you are inviting in the essence of spirit – the energy of kindness, caring, gentleness, tenderness and understanding. These are all actions we take to lovingly manage our painful feelings. While sometimes you might feel warmth in your heart, mostly compassion is an action – just as it is with others. With others, you might feel empathy – that is, you might feel what they are feeling, which might move you to show compassion to them. With yourself, you are already feeling what you feel, and being kind and caring toward your feelings is the way to manage your painful feelings. Does this make sense to you?”

“Yes! I’ve been very confused because I thought I had to feel compassionate, and I don’t know what that feels like. Now I’m feeling relieved because I know how to be compassionate.”

The same understanding applies to love. Is love primarily a feeling or an action? When it comes to ourselves, it is primarily an action. We can take loving action toward ourselves without a feeling of love for ourselves in our heart. The same is true with others. For example, say you have an infant who cries at night. At that moment, you might not be feeling your love for your baby, because you are so tired, but when you really want to be a loving parent, you take the loving action of holding and feeding and changing the baby.

The same is true on the inner level. We don’t need to feel the feeling of love to take the actions of love for ourselves.

For me, the feeling of love is something that warms and swells my heart when I am open to spirit. I love it when spirit gifts me with this feeling – which I call grace. It’s the feeling of oneness with everything and overwhelming love for everyone and everything. It’s the very best feeling in the world.

However, I don’t need to have this feeling of love and grace to be loving and compassionate to myself and with others. Being compassionate is a decision I make to be loving, not something I have to wait to feel. In fact, the more often I take loving and compassionate action, the more often I feel the wonderful feeling of grace in my heart.

So, instead of waiting for a feeling of love and compassion to move you to take action, make the conscious decision to take kind and loving action toward yourself and others and then notice what feelings are generated.

To understand loving and compassionate actions, just think about being kind. We think of kindness as an action, not as a feeling. We don’t think, “Oh, I need to wait until I feel the feeling of kindness before I am kind with people.” When you want to be kind, then you are kind. The same is true on the inner level. If you focus on being very kind and gentle with your feelings, then you are being compassionate with yourself. Your kind and gentle actions with yourself might then generate the full warm feeling of love and grace in your heart.

It’s important to understand that there is a vast difference between self-compassion and self-pity, which is feeling sorry for yourself.

When you see yourself as a victim, you indulge in self-pity. You are a bottomless pit of misery, and you may find yourself crying endless victim tears. You might say things like:

  • Why do bad things always happen to me?
  • I’m a loser and I’ll always be a loser.
  • It’s not fair.
  • God is here for everyone but me.
  • I’m just not one of the lucky ones.
  • Everything is my fault. I’m not good enough.

Self-pity might serve two purposes:

  • One is that it gets you off the hook from having to take responsibility for yourself. If you see yourself as a loser or unlucky or not good enough, then you don’t have to take loving action on your own behalf.
  • The other purpose is the hope that your self-pity may make someone else feely guilty enough to take responsibility for you. Self-pity is a form of control – to avoid making mistakes, and possibly failing, by getting someone else to feel sorry enough for you or guilty enough, to take care of you.

Is self-pity working for you? Even if you do get someone to do for you what you need to be doing for yourself, is it making you feel joyful and secure? The price you pay for not taking responsibility for yourself might be huge.

When you are indulging in self-pity, you are likely trying to get someone else to give you the compassion that you need to be giving to yourself. While compassion from others always feels great, if you are stuck in self-judgment and self-pity, it will have no lasting positive effect.

For many years of my life, I was a victim, always trying to get someone else to give me the compassion that I had not received as a child. Most of the time, people resisted giving me what I wanted, as they didn’t want to feel controlled by me, and they couldn’t feel much compassion toward me when I was abandoning myself.

It was a huge shift in my life when I realized that I could give myself the compassion that I kept trying to get from others.

While the energy of self-pity has a very low frequency and feeds on itself to take you lower and lower, the energy of self-compassion is powerful and uplifting.

Self-pity comes from the false beliefs of the ego wounded self, while the energy of self-compassion comes through you from your spiritual connection.

When you feel sorry for yourself, your heart is closed to the love and wisdom that is within you and all around you. When you choose to be kind to yourself and gentle with yourself, your heart opens to the love, wisdom, and power of spirit.

Self-pity comes from the intent to control and avoid responsibility for yourself, while self-compassion comes from the intent to be loving to yourself.

When you choose to be compassionate toward yourself, you might say to your inner child – the feeling part of you – things like:

  • I know this is very hard, and I’m here for you. You are not alone.
  • The challenges of life can be very painful. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I love you and we will be okay.
  • This painful situation has nothing to do with you being bad or not good enough. Everyone has painful challenges in life. You are not being punished.
  • It’s okay to cry whenever you need to. We will reach out for comfort when we need it.

There is a vast difference between trying to manipulate someone into feeling sorry for you and taking care of you and reaching out for comfort. Sometimes, taking loving care of yourself involves asking others for help. We can’t always do it alone, but asking for help is very different than asking someone to do it for you.

For me, the paradox is that, once I learned how to connect with my personal source of spiritual guidance and give myself the compassion I needed, I started to also receive compassion from others. This compassion from others is mostly the icing on the cake, rather than the cake itself.

One of the challenges in relationships is to learn to have compassion for yourself in the face of another’s anger.

Renee saw herself as a very compassionate and empathic person. She could easily feel into her husband Jeff’s feelings when he was sad or scared. But as soon as Jeff got angry or judgmental with her, her fear became far greater than her compassion – fear of losing herself and of not being seen or cared about by Jeff. Out of her fear, Renee would often shut down into silence, or she would defend herself or try to talk Jeff out of being upset. Her tone would get parental and righteous as she protected herself against her fear. Or she would capitulate and just do whatever Jeff wanted her to do but would then feel resentful. This dynamic was wreaking havoc with their marriage.

“Renee,” I asked her in one of our sessions, “What happens inside of you when Jeff gets angry or judgmental?”

“My stomach goes into a knot. I get really scared, just like I did with my dad.”

“So, your fear triggers you into the intention to protect, avoid, or control. What do you think would happen if you moved into a compassionate intent to learn with your own feelings? What would happen if you moved into compassion for yourself, for your scared little child?”

“I think if I did that, I wouldn’t feel so scared,” she said.

“Right. You think you are scared only because of Jeff’s anger, but I think you are also scared because you immediately abandon yourself in the face of his anger. You leave your little girl alone to deal with it, and all your wounded self knows to do is withdraw, defend, explain or give yourself up.”

We explored what Renee could do differently if she was compassionate toward her own feelings instead of trying to control Jeff.

“What if you told Jeff your truth and then moved into an intent to learn with him? What do you think would happen if you said to Jeff, ‘When you yell at me, I feel punched in the stomach. It feels awful and stressful and scary and makes it really hard for me to hear you. I really want to hear what you are trying to tell me. Can you say it to me without the anger and judgment? I’m listening.'”

“I think he would be shocked!” she said. “He’s constantly upset with me for not listening to him and trying to talk him out of his position.”

“So, he tries to control you with his anger and judgment, and you try to control him with your withdrawal, defense, explanations or giving yourself up. Both of you are trying to control and neither of you are open to learning. But to be able to open to learning with him and be compassionate about his feelings, you first need to be compassionate about your own feelings.”

“I can see that. I always want compassion from Jeff, yet it’s obvious that I need to be giving it to myself. I wonder why it’s so hard for me to be compassionate toward my own feelings?”

“Good question. There must be a good reason. What do you think?”

“I think that I learned as a kid to try to take care of others’ feelings. I became a caretaker at such a young age, trying to make everyone feel okay so that I could feel okay. I always felt my parents’ pain and I always wanted to fix it. So, I think that I learned to ignore my own feelings and just try to fix theirs.”

“Yes,” I said, “most children learn to ignore their own feelings because they don’t know how to handle them. Children learn various ways of trying to get others to take care of their feelings, and these controlling behaviors follow them into their adult relationships. Jeff uses anger and judgment to try to get you to take care of his feelings and you use defending, explaining, and caretaking to get him to take care of yours. Things might change between you if you started taking care of yourself by being compassionate toward your feelings.”

“Okay,” she said, “this feels good. I’m going to practice being compassionate toward my own feelings first, and then try to listen to him.”

Renee had another session with me a month later and she reported that things between her and Jeff were better than they had been in a long time!

Self-compassion is a powerful doorway to inner peace and joy. Moving into compassion for yourself – choosing to be kind, caring, tender and gentle with yourself – is the key to being loving to yourself. It’s the key to moving out of being a victim of your addictions and of others’ choices, and into your personal power, emotional freedom, and loving relationships.

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books:

And we have so much to offer you at our website at

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

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