The role of self-compassion
The following article is the last of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about domestic violence. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and we hope to educate our community on this very serious issue. One in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Locally, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center has been serving victims of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse since 1978. Last year, HCWC served 2,111 victims of abuse (face-to-face) from Hays and Caldwell Counties. Of those, 1,022 were victims of domestic violence.
In HCWC’s 40 years as an organization, we have been able to serve countless numbers of victims and survivors through the support of compassionate community members who have donated their money, time and resources to further our mission of creating communities where abuse is not tolerated. It is through this compassion that our homes and work places feel safer, our relationships are healthier, and our words are kinder.
When we feel compassion for others, we are able to see that suffering and imperfection are a part of the shared human experience, and that a little bit of kindness can go a long way. However, often times, we aren’t as ready or willing to show the same compassion to ourselves in moments of suffering or difficultly.
Think of a time when a close friend or family member was feeling really bad about themselves or struggling in some way. How did you respond to this person, especially at a time when you were feeling your best? Most likely, you responded with kind and encouraging words. You may have given them a hug or supported them while they cried. You may have even responded with a little bit of tough love, with the overall message being that they will get through this and come out stronger in the end.
Now, think about the times when you yourself are feeling really bad or struggling in some way. How do you typically respond to yourself? Most likely, your inner dialogue isn’t the most kind or encouraging, you definitely aren’t giving yourself a hug, and your tough love is a lot tougher and little less loving. Why is it that we are more likely to show compassion to others and less likely to show the same compassion to ourselves?
Years ago, after attending a series of workshops hosted by Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneering researcher in self-compassion, HCWC staff adopted the practice to share with clients and other members of the community. Dr. Neff describes self-compassion as giving “ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give a good friend.”
Differing from self-esteem, self-compassion allows us to recognize our limitations and flaws, showing ourselves kindness as we accept them or work through them. To many people, it can sound like an invitation for selfpity or an excuse to not grow in areas we recognize we have limitations, but self-compassion helps us to recognize that no human being is perfect. While self-esteem can falter based on how we feel about ourselves, the practice of self-compassion reminds us that we can always be in control of how we treat ourselves.
In sharing self-compassion with the community, we have learned more about the dynamics of abuse. We have learned that often times, a person who uses abusive behaviors does so out of contempt for themselves and acts out in frustration that results in abuse. By adopting the practice of self-compassion, we start the first step of replacing self-criticism with self-kindness and lay the foundation for healthier relationships with ourselves. When we have healthier relationships with ourselves, they can lead to healthier relationships with others, which are a cornerstone of ending violence and abuse.
To learn more about self-compassion, visit Self-Compassion's website, which offers free and confidential individual counseling, support groups and advocacy services to victims of family violence, dating violence, sexual assault and child abuse who live, work or go to school in the Hays County and Caldwell County area. Another way you can be proactive in taking a stand against abuse and violence is to consider getting involved in YOUR community. Attend, donate an item or become a sponsor to help support HCWC’s biggest fundraiser, our Annual Live and Silent Auction which will be held on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at Texas State’s LBJ Student Center Ballroom. For more information, please call HCWC at 512-396-3404 or visit HCWC's website
Kiara Nicholson is Primary Prevention Coordinator for the HCWC