Episode 6: Five Myths about Self Compassion

Episode Summary

Why are people hesitant about Self Compassion? Maybe people think it’s self-indulgent or will make them weak! We’ll take a look at 5 Myths about Self Compassion and see if there is anything to them. This show will also look at the Main Two Obstacles that come up in meditation – and how to deal with them.


You’re listening to Keith and the mindfulness community. With your host, Keith Horan. We’re talking about mindfulness and self compassion, how it can help you with stress and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. And just bring about more peace of.

Thanks for being here.

Welcome to Episode Six. Today, we’re going to look at five myths around self compassion. So these are myths or ideas that we may have that could hold us back from really looking at this area, we’ll do a two minutes mindfulness on the go practice. And in the second half, I’ll introduce two of the big obstacles that come up when we tried to meditate. I’m really glad you’re here. And I hope you find this helpful.

Hey, there, I’m sitting in my usual spot to record, it feels like I’ve been tripping over my kids all morning. And I’m sure they feel like they’re tripping over me. We’re all sharing the same space, like they’re trying to do their schoolwork and their resumes and all of that. But I’ve taken over the kitchen, and I’m keeping it. And I’m really excited to jump into today’s topic. 

So here we go five myths about self compassion. Let me just read the five of them first, and then we’ll sort of explore them and see which one might be holding us back. So number one, it’s a form of PC. Number two, it’s weak self compassion is weak. Number three, it’s selfish. Number four, it’s self indulgent. And number five, and my pet favourites, it will undermine our motivation. So I’m going to look at all of these. 

And I’m really relying on the research of Kirsten Neff, who is a professor at the University of Texas, and is really the leading researcher on self compassion and its impact. 

  1. Self compassion is a form of pity

So number one, self compassion is a form of pity. So we may have an inner voice that says something like this self compassion stuff, it’s just a fancy way of feeling sorry for myself, let’s jump back to what self compassion is all about and what it’s made up of. 

So there’s three parts to self compassion. The first one is mindfulness. The second one is common humanity, just a sense that I’m not the only person who struggles it’s just part of being human. And the third part then is in light of the first to treating ourselves with kindness, then looking at this myth around self compassion and pity. 

Well, with mindfulness, we’re not exaggerating in any way, the way things are. Mindfulness is all about looking exactly directly at how things are, without exaggerated stories and rumination and additional worries. It’s just seeing what’s really here. And it’s the same with common humanity. We’re really bringing up an awareness of our own struggles in the context of how we all struggle. So there again, there’s no exaggeration about how difficult things are, for me in particular, so self compassion isn’t a kind of woe is me attitude. And here’s two specific findings from the research. Research shows self compassionate people are more likely to engage in perspective taking than to focus on their own distress. So they’re more likely to kind of have a bigger sense of perspective. And the second one, they’re less likely to ruminate on how bad things are. 

  1. Self Compassion is weak

The second one self compassion is weak. So this is like a variation on the PC example. So we might have the idea that self compassion is weak or somehow by practising self compassion or become we, but the research clearly is going against this idea of weakness.

Actually, self compassion is strong. It offers resilience when people are faced with difficulty. And specifically, research is showing that self compassionate people are better able to cope with difficult situations like divorce, trauma, and chronic pain. So it makes more sense to equate self compassion with strength and resilience than weakness. 

  1. Self compassion is selfish

Number three, self compassion is selfish. I mean, it’s got the word self in it already. So it must be kind of selfish somehow by practising self compassion, do we become more isolated, have less interest in other people, and are just really all focused on ourselves? 

Okay, so that could be the fear. And again, let’s look at what the research is showing. Research shows that self compassionate people tend to be more caring and supportive in romantic relationships are more likely to compromise in relationship conflicts and are more common compassionate towards others. 

So if compassion is all about seeing suffering, being able to look at it fearlessly, and trying to do something about it, or at least wanting to do something about it, with self compassion, all we’re doing is including ourselves in the circle of compassion. It’s nothing to do with having less compassion for others. It’s just bringing ourselves in, including ourselves in this. And what tends to happen is that we lessen our sense of separation from others. 

  1. Self compassion is self indulgent

Number four, self compassion is self indulgent. Like we’re just going to become really lazy. We won’t exercise we’ll eat chocolate cake whenever we feel like it. It’s just a way of making excuses and indulging ourselves. 

And of course, the research isn’t going to agree with that. Here’s what it says. Research shows that self compassionate people engage in healthier behaviours like exercise, eating well, drinking less, and going to the doctor more regularly. What becomes clear is that practising compassion and practising self compassion involves emphasising long term well being over short term pleasure, we’re more likely to care for ourselves properly, and really think long term. 

  1. Self compassion will undermine motivation

Finally, number five, self compassion will undermine motivation. I mentioned earlier, this is kind of my favourite, because actually, I can see this tendency in my own thinking, I have that inbuilt way of thinking that I should push hard, make things happen, force things to happen, you know, ignore when I’m tired work through his drive on all of those kinds of things. And in some cases, that’s been helpful. But in lots of cases, maybe it hasn’t. 

If we really practice self compassion, will we lose our motivation? Will we lose our drive? So that’s the fear. And that’s the myth. 

The research here is very subtle. It shows that self compassionate people have the very same high standards. So there isn’t a difference in the standards that people said, the difference is, with self compassion, you just don’t beat yourself up when you fail. So this is unbelievably important. Like there’s the same motivation to try to succeed to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. But the important difference is, we just don’t beat ourselves up when things go wrong. 

And research is clearly showing that people who practice self compassion, are less afraid of failure, and are more likely to try again, and persist in their efforts after failing, self compassionate people are still really motivated. It’s just that they motivate themselves with encouragement, rather than harsh self criticism. So there’s the five myths. So if any of those types of ideas was holding you back from trying to practice self compassion, maybe they don’t need to anymore.

Okay, now’s a good time to jump into a short two minute practice. 

So let’s move towards the breathing for today’s practice. And we’re gonna do it in a specific way called affectionate breathing. 

So however you are standing or sitting or driving, or gradually inviting your attention to your breathing, like just noticing your breathing. 

For this practice, it can help to put a hand on your stomach, if that’s comfortable. 

And you just kind of noticing the natural movement as you breathe in and as you breathe out,

you can even imagine it’s like waves flowing in and out just the rhythm of your own breathing. However, it is

nothing to change about your breathing, and nothing to change about this moment.

Just allowing your breathing to be kind of soothing.

 And then just letting go of the practice. 

Thanks for doing that practice. So now I’m going to pull from some of the training on how to meditate that I use within the mindfulness community. 

I’m a huge fan in actually training how to meditate. So as opposed to just reading a book or listening to a guided meditation, and trying to make progress with that, I think it’s really important to understand how meditation works, what’s happening in meditation, the different challenges and obstacles we run into and how to deal with those. It just seems obvious to me that if we really want to make progress and enjoy it and get the benefits from it, we need to learn a little bit. 

So let me introduce you to two of the big obstacles that you’ll meet in meditation. And this goes for whether you’re an experienced meditator or especially if you’re starting out, these two characters are definitely going to pop up in your meditation. And it’s great to be able to recognise them. So the two qualities are restlessness and dullness. 


So let’s take restlessness first. If you’ve tried to meditate at all, you know that feeling of having a kind of a buzzy mind, and your thoughts are all over the place. And in theory, you’re supposed to focus on the breathing, but actually, your mind is jumping everywhere. That is restlessness. And the most important thing in dealing with restlessness is just being able to notice it. Moving from that place where your mind is jumping everywhere, and you’re probably thinking, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this, this is really annoying. 

I’m feeling really impatient, all of that, it’s really good to be able to just take that one step back and go, Ah, my mind is filled with restlessness. And it’s not a big judgement doesn’t really mean anything about ourselves. At times, our minds are really restless, that’s just the way it is. 

So often restlessness, it’s like an extra energy in the mind, it’s actually really possible to harness that energy and use it to have even stronger meditation. But that’s something I’ll go into another time. But for now, it’s just great to be able to see that see that quality of restlessness and see it for what it is. 


The other character to spot is kind of the opposite, it’s dullness. So we all know this feeling like you want to think about something clearly, like in everyday life, you want to figure something out or do something. And your mind is just kind of dull, it’s kind of sleepy, it just doesn’t have any clarity. And actually, doneness is the opposite of clarity. 

So we’ve seen this in meditation, the mind is just kind of numb. So again, it’s really good to spot that you start to meditate, you’re trying to really clearly notice the breath and the out breath, or whatever it is you’re trying to visualise something or you’re practising gratitude. But instead, your mind is just kinda dull. It’s sort of there, but it’s not really doing much. 

So dullness is the opposite of restlessness. If restlessness is like too much energy in the mind, dullness is kind of too little, it’s sort of slumped. And with both these qualities restlessness and dullness, the most important thing by far, is becoming able to see them, just spotting them. And you kind of treat him like friends. And you know, sometimes you’ll have both of them in a meditation, like your mind will go from restlessness to dullness and back. 

And by the way, these things are happening all throughout the day, every day, it’s just in meditation, we get a chance to see them. 

Let me give you a quick suggestion and how to work with the two of these. So like I said, the first most important thing is just being able to spot them. Then with restlessness, this kind of high buzzy energy, it’s very good to focus on the solidness of your meditation posture. So I love and guide like really noticing your feet on the floor, or the contact you have with the chair, or the cushion, however you’re sitting, or if you’re lying down, the contact your back and your body has with the mass or the ground. This really stable emphasis like feeling very steady and very grounded. And that helps to balance the buzzy restlessness a little bit. 

Maybe you can already guess what you can do with dullness. So if you think about posture, again, dullness is this kind of slumpy. Slightly tired, just gnome kind of stays. So in this case, bringing a little bit more energy to the pasture, like deliberately lengthening the back, having a feeling of length all the way up to the top of the head, bringing a little bit of brightness and a little bit of energy into the pasture. Actually, that’s the thing that balances out dullness. 

So there’s other ways of working with these two obstacles. And of course there are other obstacles come up. But for now, I think noticing them being non judgmental about them. Just Seeing like, here they are. And then just working a little bit with being more solid or a little bit more upright and alert.

Okay? And as always with your practice, you have to be really gentle with yourself like really encouraging. Bring in self compassion from the start, it’ll make the whole experience more enjoyable. 

So that’s it for today. Thanks so much for listening and take care.

You can find today’s show notes and more great resources at Keith horan.com. And I’d be delighted if you would give a quick rating wherever you listen to your podcasts. This helps us in reaching people and growing the show. Thanks so much for listening.

Listen to Keith's Podcast: