Transcript | PPP105: Compassion and Being Your Own Best Friend



[00:00:00] Intro: Today on the Potential Psychology Podcast.

[00:00:03] Ellen: I'm really intrigued personally about the difference between kindness and compassion.

[00:00:07] Marie: Kindness is a deliberate and intentional act to do something for someone else that is likely to benefit them. Compassion is a response to the suffering of someone else and the intent to soothe that suffering.

Empathy is when we notice the suffering and we feel it. And we take that pain on, in some respects, it's almost our own. When we sit there, we are activating the brain pathways of pain. Whereas the thing that shifts empathy through to compassion is the intent to soothe that, the intent to try and help that person to resolve that suffering in some way, the moment we move through from I see your pain to I see it with an intent to soothe. We are activating the brain pathways of life.

[00:01:04] Ellen: Welcome to the Potential Psychology Podcast. I'm your host psychologist, Ellen Jackson and this is the show in which we explore what it is to be human and how we as humans can fulfill our potential. Hello, and welcome back to the Potential Psychology Podcast.

I'm your host, Ellen Jackson and I hope you're thriving. I hope you've had a great week since we spoke to you last. And when I say we, I of course mean, it's me and my wonderful cohost Marie McLeod. Hi Marie.

[00:01:34] Marie: Hi Ellen, how you going?

[00:01:35] Ellen: I'm well, thank you. I'm very well. It's been really busy week, so I'm really keen to talk about today's topic, which we'll go into in a moment.

Did you want to do a little check-in on last week or perhaps just reminded a new or perhaps recent or new listeners as to what we're doing with our, How To Thrive Series.

[00:01:56] Marie: Yes so, um, great to be back here on the How To Thrive Podcast and over an eight week series, we are diving into BEACON, which is my framework for thriving and BEACON stands for Belonging, Engagement, Accountability, which we did last week, Compassion, which we're doing today, Optimism for next week and nurture.

And each week we're sharing some evidence-based ideas. We're discussing it and applying it in our own lives and how we find that. And we sit in our listeners, our quest of something that they can go away and do fairly simply across the week. And we'd love to hear how people go with that. So what we've been telling to do is in full transparency, checking in with each other about how we went with the quest over the week and I have a few confessions to make today.

Oh. So yeah, last week we spoke about accountability, which is really where the rubber hits the road in terms of what we apply and what we kind of know

and actually doing it. And I do find that this is something that is the game changer. You know, we can know all of these things, but it's about how well and consistently we apply them.

And so last week we sit people and challenge that we said that we would partake in as well of choosing one thing that we wanted to make as a habit. And we talked about how to form habits, that we want to have a cue, tying it to something that we already do in our day. That's already solid as a habit, um, do the routine and then have a little reward.

And so I had said that I would try to do a small amount of meditation each day before I started work. And I think if I recall correctly, Ellen, you had said that you were going to do some sun salutations cause you love yoga, but hadn't been doing it. And I think we're going to do it before bed.

[00:03:56] Ellen: I'm not quite sure if I'd thought through exactly when I was going to do it.

And I have a confession to make, because I was a dismal, which I think possibly leads us into this week's conversation but it was interesting. I was unpacking this a little for myself to try and work out exactly what happened and why it was that I was not able to be accountable to this little challenge that I set myself.

And I'd like to say, you know, it was a really busy week. It was a really busy week. I think really what it was though, when I did start to unpack it was that I had not given it enough of that pre-planning work. You know, we spoke about cues and really for something that has to fit into a busy routine and I suspect this is a situation that faces all of our listeners, that there does require a little bit of planning and thinking through, and then the accountability comes from the commitment to the doing of it. And I don't think I'm quite sure that I did not give enough time and thought to exactly how I was going to fit this into my day in a way that would start to incorporate into a routine or into a habit. I sort of said, yes, that's what I'm going to do and then probably got busy with the next.

[00:05:16] Marie: Yes.

[00:05:16] Ellen: So what's the next project?

[00:05:19] Marie: And all the other habits.

[00:05:20] Ellen: And all the other habits. And it was interesting because I then reflected on, well, what I have managed to do this week that I'm really pleased about was I think I mentioned, I'm not sure if it was last week or the week before that I have been different to walk five kilometers a day as an average, as part of a fundraising effort that I'm working on for our local community.

And also because walking is something for me that is good for my mental health. It's good for my physical health and I do it with the dog. So there's a bit of accountability to her. She needs the walk. And it was a really bad weather. It was a really busy week and I spent quite a bit of time. We had one day when I was delivering an element of the leadership program that I run that took me from sort of 7:30 AM until about quarter past 10:00 PM, where my barely stopped the whole day and it was a really bad weather week, this week. Everyone knows Ballarat. Well, that's even worse, I suspect than Melbourne. So it was a challenge to get out and do my five kilometers every day. But I still, I didn't do it every day, but over the course of the week, I did, you know, the average. So I would say five by to 35 kilometers for the week.

And I thought about why it was, I could create that habit and persist with that even under difficult circumstances and not create this new habit that we were talking about. And for me, it was very much about accountability funnily enough. Firstly, accountability to the dog kind of, I've made a commitment to her that we would go out and walk.

And because she is an active dog, she will start to muck up by the end of the day if she hasn't had activity. So, you know, there's that accountability, there was the accountability to the goal. I've set myself 150 kilometers over the course of November. So, you know, I know that if I fall behind with that, that I've got some long days of walking and, you know if I wanna hit that target.

And then, because it's a fundraising activity, you know, I've made a commitment, there's accountability there to the people who have chosen to sponsor me. So I was thinking that through and just, you know, all those different levels of accountability and a little degree of accountability to myself as well, because I really do enjoy my walks.

And I know that it's a great way for me to decompress at the end of the busy day or a busy week. So, it was multifaceted, I guess, was what I learned. And that perhaps that is part of what I need to think about when it is making a commitment to doing my sun salutations at the moment. The only niggle I've got is a lower back, which is saying you really ought to do some sun salutations.

I'd be choosing to ignore it, which I know I can only do for so long. So yeah having to unpack that and it just goes to show how complex these things are doesn't it?

[00:07:59] Marie: Yeah. I think it's, it's really interesting because, you know, it sounds so easy and in many ways it should be, but it's just not. Yeah. And I think that we kind of need to come back to examining what's our why.

And you articulated so many whys for your walk and not so many for your sun salutations. Including not even knowing what time of the day that you would do them. And so, if we are going to do these things, even if they're small, our days are busy, we're distracted by so many things. We have to be intentional. We have to know for the sake of what am I going to bother with this.

And I think they're enormously useful thing as well about to clearing our intent to do it, to those around us who can help hold us accountable or maybe do it with us. And the dog was very useful for you in that.

So that's great. We can use pets as well and I had set my meditation and I have to say one of the things that went not so well for me was my anchor, which was starting my work day was shifting on me this week and so I found that disruptive. So that reminded me to make sure that, you know, whatever habit you're trying to tie it to. I dunno, it was a very disruptive week. I think we've just come out of locked down as you know, and it's, there's all these things that were pent up from when we're in lockdown.

The kids have got, you know, pediatricians appointments and dentist appointments. And the kids have got exams that every day, my work day was starting at different times. So whilst I did my meditation, some of the days of the week, I didn't do it all of the days of the week. And what interests me is that when I do it, I just think to myself that was really easy and it felt so good.

Why is it that I resist? Why is it that it's so hard? And so there's, you know, therein lies the sort of challenge for us. You know, really be thinking about those things that we know help us thrive. And how can we put just a little bit more effort into getting clear about how we're going to insert them in our days in ways that make it more likely that we'll stick to them.

So we can have another week next week at trying these things. And today we are talking about compassion and maybe you and I can hold some self-compassion for ourselves about the fact that somedays we just didn't make it in terms of what we've committed to doing.

[00:10:19] Ellen: Absolutely. I think that as you were saying that about get managing your meditation on some days, I'm like, well, some days it's great.

[00:10:25] Marie: Some days is better than none days.

[00:10:27] Ellen: Every day might be ideal, but some days is still fantastic. And that's where that notion of self compassion. I think we did touch on this. In our discussion last week around the fact that if we can have a bit of compassion for ourselves, then it helps to break us out of that negative thought cycle where we start to say, well, I didn't do it every day, therefore I failed. Therefore, what's the point on clearly hopeless at this. You know, I'll never manage. And as soon as we start going down that path mentally, we're less and less likely to return to the habit. And when I was reflecting again during the week on our conversation and what had worked and what hadn't worked, I was reminded that relapse is very much a part of the change cycle when we're trying to change a habit, when they're trying to instill a new behavior. If we bear in mind that that notion of relapse, that we will fall off the horse and we just need to get back on again, you know, that's as much a part of this whole process as the piggybacking and the queuing and all the other elements as well.

And I think that's really helpful from a compassion point of view, to be able to say, you know what, it was just a little relapse. That's normal. All I need to do is get back on the horse and start again. And, and if I'm not perfect every time, then that's because I'm human, which is another element. So talk us through Marie, the notion of self-compassion for listeners who might not be aware of what it really means and the different elements of it.

[00:11:52] Marie: Thanks Ellen, so yesterday we are talking about compassion and in the BEACON model. We look at them, both kindness and compassion. Kindness, as many of you listeners will know is an absolute superpower when it comes to our wellbeing. So, you know, I would encourage us to keep, even when we're not feeling like it, keep on doing those kinds of things and noticing the lift, but we've chosen today to focus in on particularly self-compassion. So I thought it might be useful in the first instance, just to kind of deconstruct some of these notions about, you know, what is compassion and then what is self-compassion. How does it differ from kindness? How's it different from empathy even? And so perhaps if we start there with some definitions, does that work for you?

[00:12:35] Ellen: Yes, because I'm really intrigued in particular, and I know we're sort of moving down the compassion path and not so much the kindness part, but I'm really intrigued personally about the difference between kindness and compassion, you know. Are they different words for the same thing? Are they fundamentally different in terms of thriving in terms of a psychological definition?

I suppose, perhaps we'll take it from there. What's the difference?

[00:12:58] Marie: I think that's a great question and I think really useful for us to unpack that. So, and I'm just going to tell you, in my own words, you know, rather from this sort of textbook, but kindness is deliberate and intentional act to do something for someone else that is likely to benefit them.

Compassion is a response to the suffering of someone else and the intent to soothe that suffering. So as you say, the difference is there is that within kindness, it's, uh, it's just a proactive thing. It's just, you know, I feel like doing something nice for someone else. I'm going to put a little note in my daughter's lunch box to say, I love hearing good luck for her exams, or I'm going to make a coffee and take it out to my husband cause he's been working really hard today or I'm gonna help someone who's struggling with their plan and get up onto the train. Those just little things that we do because we want to, and we can think that they will be of benefit to others. Whereas compassion is where there is the presence of struggle or suffering.

So we, we see someone who is in pain in some way, whether it be psychological or physical and we have the sense to notice that suffering. Now, empathy is when we notice the suffering and we feel it and we take that pain on, in some respects, it's as if it's almost our own, and that's the piece that can be painful for us if we stay in it.

Whereas the thing that shifts empathy through to compassion is the intent to soothe that. The intent to try and help that person to resolve that suffering in some way. Now that might just be listening or sitting in the darkness with them without the need to turn on the light. So it doesn't mean that we can solve the problem or alleviate that suffering entirely, but it's the intent that matters.

And when we move through from empathy, I see your pain. I feel your pain. I come down and sit in your shoes and feel that pain. When we sit there, we are activating the brain pathways of pain. And it's uncomfortable and it's really not sustainable place for us to stay. So you can imagine if you're in a role where you are seeing lots of suffering, maybe you're in health care or social services or things like that.

It's actually empathy fatigue that we might experience, not compassion, fatigue. The moment we move through from I see your pain to I see it with an intent to soothe, we are activating the brain pathways of love. And that's endless. That is something that refills us. It doesn't deplete us. And so that is the definitions or differences, I guess, between kindness, which is just a proactive effort to benefit others, no suffering needed and empathy,

I see your suffering. Compassion, I see it and I move through with an intent to soothe it.

[00:16:12] Ellen: Okay. So, that's really interesting cause yes, so I'm, I'm looking at this through my psychological lens and because one of the things that I have wondered, I interviewed Stan Steindl about compassion on the podcast last season.

It was a wonderful conversation, but it did get me thinking because we've spoken about strengths before. And I am thankfully surrounded by people who have kindness as one of their top strengths that is a delight to be around. It is not one of my top strengths at all. It is something that I have to work towards, and I'm not very good at that either.

And when listening to Stan talking about compassion and listening to you, just talking about compassion, then I felt, I do feel I have compassion. I don't feel that, but I'm not sure that kindness as a strength is something that comes naturally to me. So it just, you know, finding those two definitions, say, okay, yes, I, I can have compassion.

I can see people's pain. I can be moved to do something about that but this behavioral element of kindness, this doing things for other people, because it feels like the right thing to do. Doesn't come as naturally to me, this is just me being entirely transparent on the show today.

[00:17:25] Marie: Thank you for your honesty. And I, you know, I noticed

[00:17:28] Ellen: I'm that kind of person.

[00:17:29] Marie: Yeah, no, but you know, that's, that is a very important distinction because you can be a compassionate person and I'm sure that you are kind at times, but it doesn't come to you as naturally, you know, for me, I do have kindness as a strength and I would say the best, the same with my husband. Like he doesn't have that and he has loved.

And so love moves him to act, but he doesn't have kindness. And I noticed that very acutely sometimes because he'll put prudence before people or rules before, you know, whereas I will be constantly seeking the kindest thing to do, but as you, and I know we can overplay these things. So it's about balance and, you know, sometimes I will overplay kindness and I'll be, you know, saying yes, here, there, and everywhere and ended up being depleted myself.

And that's where the balance of this is incredibly important. And in the BEACON framework, I've developed a kindness quadrant where we look at these four domains from you know, the place of sometimes being really selfless and losing ourself right through to kind of considered kindness where we have boundaries and, you know, we won't get the chance to go through all of that today, but it does have more nuance to it.

And I think, you know, for you and just be as having self compassion for yourself around the fact that kindness is not easy. And, you know, it's a learned thing rather than just a natural thing. And I would say. My son who is on the spectrum, he doesn't naturally notice those things. Gary doesn't naturally notice those things.

And so, you know, it's about then prompting and the rest of us asking for what we need. You know, it doesn't mean that that person who doesn't notice those acts of kindness is a bad person. It's just that we're all wired so differently.

[00:19:13] Ellen: Absolutely.

[00:19:13] Marie: So, you know, I think it's all fascinating stuff. So today we wanted to look at the notion of self compassion.

You know, I think probably compassion out of the BEACON beams is one of my most favorite things. And it probably because I love, love, love kindness, and it's been a very important value that I hold, but probably self-compassion has been incredibly transformative for me in terms of, I think as now, if it's especially women, but I do notice it a lot in women that we are so hard on ourselves.

We are so critical, so judgy so much of the time we beat ourselves up. Paul Gilbert's beautiful work, The Compassionate Mind is a big book that he wrote, which is fairly dense, but amazing. And you know, it was astounding for me, Ellen, to discover that when we speak to ourselves in ways that are self critical and mean, we actually activate our own stress response.

Mm, exactly the same way. If you're saying to me, you know, oh, Marie couldn't you got yourself a bit more organized this morning. Like seriously, you know what I got on? You didn't even have your cup of tea there yet, or whatever, you know, like if you were bullying me that activate stress response and fit off my fight flight freeze, amygdala response. Well, I can do that to myself when I speak to myself mainly, I don't know before.

[00:20:48] Ellen: It's astounding, isn't it? And even to notice, I think one of the things that I've learned over time is that we don't listen to what we say to ourselves. We don't pay. It's become so much part of that soundtrack, that conversation, those messaging, when we say, oh my god, I'm useless. Oh my god,

I'm hopeless. Oh my god, why did I stuff that up? We've possibly done that since we were very, very young, very young. And maybe it's because we've heard our parents say that to themselves, or maybe in some cases we have been told that by others, sadly. And we just absorb that as part of this narrative, this, the voice, the self-talk that we have.

And it's only when we learn the skill of becoming conscious of that self-talk that we can then have the power to change it, but that's not easy either is it? That takes time.

[00:21:47] Marie: Oh, goodness no, it's like, uh, it's I guess it's a lifetime of vigilance really, you know, I think we do get better at it.

I would say that in the last oh I believe five years is really that short amount of time that I've really even understood what self-compassion is. So, you know, just to be clear. So we spoke about compassion, meaning that we observe suffering and we have an intent to soothe. So self-compassion then is noticing our own, the suffering, and rather than taking a self-critical judgment approach, having intent to soothe ourselves, so that's what we mean by self-compassion. Now, I think what's interesting is that, um, I'm not sure if there are multiple layers of challenges for me around doing that. One is that I often move to flip and fast to even notice my own suffering. I'm much more likely to notice the suffering of others than I am to notice my own suffering. So that's the first challenge, the second challenge for me, and I'm sure many people I coach as well is.

Look, it's, it's really, really silly, but we, me I'll own this. There is often an unworthiness around, do I deserve compassion? Do I observe to slow down and notice that I'm suffering and then noticing it as one thing, do I deserve what actions I need to take to soothe it? And I think that we are very good at just, and maybe this is a cultural thing, a little as well.

We are kind of taught or absorbed the notion of just suck it up, you know. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on. And that's sort of what we think is expected and maybe what we expected ourselves. Certainly what I've expected of myself is that you suck it up and get on with it. And that one is valued as being strong and competent and having your shit together, excuse me.

[00:23:56] Ellen: Some of those messages that we internalized.

[00:23:59] Marie: Yeah. And so then it feels for me what it has felt like in times gone by and I still fight against is that notion that if I notice my suffering, first of all, I have to be attentive enough to myself that I think that I have this sense that it will make me weak. I'll lose my edge. I won't get as much done. I won't perform as well. That it's soft.

You know? Sounds silly. Well, how has that for you?

[00:24:35] Ellen: Yeah, I think the one thing that I'd, I don't know, because again, I mean, I've been on this journey journey, such a hackneyed phrase, but as well, you know, this understanding of self-compassion I was just reflecting on the weekend yesterday.

We were, we just had a household, very tired people yesterday. My husband actually gone away overnight so he wasn't around. My eldest son had had some friends over on Saturday night and of course they hadn't gotten much sleep, so he was really tired. I was tired from an accumulation of a busy week. And then of course having three teenagers in the house would make you a lot of noise.

So I didn't get all that a sleep either and my little guy is probably the same. He he'd gone to bed way too late for someone his age. Anyway, so we were all a little tired. Now I grew up in an environment where you don't nap. You don't rest during the day you get up, you go, you get stuff done. Get stuff done. You get stuff done. You're a busy person and you get stuff done. Absolutely. Absolutely. So high need for achievement, I think in the DNA, but also in the environment. And so for me, the self-compassion has been around saying it's actually ok A, to not get stuff done, B to rest when you need to, and it's something that I have grappled with and then I still grapple with them.

And yesterday, despite the fact that I was exhausted, I resisted the urge to go and have a nap because I kept thinking, I'll just get that done. I'll just tidy this up and I'll just do it. And then I thought, well, I'll go for a walk instead and that does help a lot but I looked at the kids and my 13 year old went back to bed.

Now, I don't think that would have been acceptable. Sorry, mum and dad, if you're listening, that would not have been acceptable. It just would not have been the done thing. You would have felt so bad, but I was like, no, you know what? You're really tired. You know, just rest, if you're tired, rest, you know, you growing, you did have a late night. That's okay. You don't need to suffer today because of what you did last night. He knows. In fact, he said to me, mum, I think I need to go to bed early because I'm worried I'll get sick if I don't get enough sleep. So, yeah. So, you know, I knew he was doing it for all the right reasons and the little one was just as happy as a clam in his pajamas, watching things on YouTube and making Lego and, you know, sitting on the floor with the dog. So I just was like, let's just have this quiet day but it's taken me a long time. Yeah pajama day, but it's taken me a long time to get to that. And a lot of that has been around having to have this conversation with myself about those sorts of messages, you know, that it's okay for people to rest when they need to rest. It's okay if you're not doing everything all the time, but I still grapple with that.

[00:27:17] Marie: Yeah, that this power and rest that's right.

I probably would say that I could hear my mum's saying go and have a rest. I think I'm probably the one whose appearing that doesn't set a good example to my children because I don't rest. You know what I mean? Like your actions, if our actions speak louder than words, well, like you, you know, I feel very, um, much like I can't sit still and stuff needs to be done. A good day is when you get lots of things ticked off the list and you know, my husband's probably very much the same.

And so it does worry me sometimes that you know, what are we saying to our kids? You know, we seldom let them miss their sport or missed days of school or things like that. Even if they say I'm really tired, you know? And so that does concern me a little bit, you know, we're being sort of raising them with that kind of faulty wiring, perhaps around not being kind with it.

And it is hard to get the balance, you know, like

[00:28:15] Ellen: I guess it's the balance isn't it?

[00:28:16] Marie: Yeah.

[00:28:16] Ellen: It was saying, you know, thinking, you know, it is a balance because there's also a lot to be said for the wellbeing effects of accomplishment and achieving things and getting things done.

[00:28:24] Marie: That's absolutely

right. And last week we might've spoken about grit and grace.

You know, accountability. Yes, we need to drive ourselves with grit, that passion and perseverance for the longterm goal, but we also need to have grace for ourselves. And those moments when we know we just, haven't got it in us today. And that's when self compassion comes in and says, do you know what.

You've had a really big week. We're just getting out of lockdown. There's a lot of things going on. I I've, you know, it's been very overwhelming and that's where the, the noticing of, well, this is, I am tired, you know, how am I feeling in my body right now? How am I feeling in my mind right now? And that's where the sort of, I guess, you know, bringing in an element of mindfulness to this as well, is that you don't notice that you're suffering.

If you're not mindful and present enough in yourself. I've, I've, I've gone to doctors before and tried to sort of explain things that are going on for me and realize I don't really even know because I don't pay much attention to that little ache and pain or niggle or whatever. And so, you know, I think that we could definitely go along way with that. And I do work with a lot of people who are in social services and healthcare and education. And I did a lot of work recently with first responders, whether that be sort of, you know, in firefighting or police or volunteer first responders. And, you know, I think that particularly in those sectors, there is so much outpouring to others and to kind of guilt about giving to ourselves.

And, you know, I, when I was working with first responders, I kind of, you know, began to say other care without self care leads to despair.

[00:30:17] Ellen: Yeah.

[00:30:17] Marie: Other care without self care leads to despair because the disproportionate number of people in that first responder cohort or sector that are getting mental health issues because they're busy out there, you know, fighting the fires and saving people's lives and putting other people first.

But they are ending up with PTSD. They're ending up with depression and anxiety in rates greater than the general population. Yeah. And so, you know, we do need to begin to take notice and to realize that the research is showing that it is, it is not soft. We are not going to lose our edge. We are not going to perform less well, in fact, quite the contrary is true.

We will actually, you know, get more done and more gracefully if we look after ourselves and speak to ourselves nicely.

[00:31:06] Ellen: And it's a bigger challenge in that as well, which we won't have time to go into today, but it's a good conversation which is the systems that those people are operating within as well.

And that the broader system has to really take this on board and to understand. And that's hard because as you were speaking, I was thinking about our frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic. And just that need to be on all the time. The volume of work, the volume of change that people are dealing with.

All of those operational needs that would make it very difficult to find time for self care. And yet the need being there for that as well. Probably, well, I'm quite sure there is a broader conversation to be had within our systems to be able to start finding that set. I mean, as we said, this is not an easy thing.

It's not as straightforward as, oh, we'll just write a policy that says everyone has to put, you know, do X, Y, Z for self care. But of course, it's, it's nowhere near that. It's far more nuanced. It's far more complex. And it's about finding that balance as we said, that, you know, from our own experience. So when you start to think about how you do that, The system-wide, it is quite complex.

[00:32:10] Marie: That's right. And there's been some beautiful work done by Monica Warline and Jane Dutton and Sonja Lyubomirsky and others around, you know, compassion and workplaces and, you know, you're right. It's not absolutely not just a policy, you know, it has to be led from the top and it has to, you know, become a compassionate culture.

And, you know, the first part of it, I think, is around this psychological safety that says it's okay to not be okay. And it's okay to bring your whole selves to work and to falter into fall and to struggle. That is part of being human. And it is when we deny ourselves and failed to give ourselves permission, to sit in suffering and struggle and to admit that, and to soothe that, that we really get into trouble.

[00:32:59] Ellen: And that's a key element of this, isn't it? This acknowledgement that we are just as human as everybody else, and somebody else struggles with these things as well.

[00:33:08] Marie: Yes it is. And you know, unfortunately social media is really fueling the fire around that. You know, when we look at social media, what we're seeing is just the golden parts of everyone else's lives.

They are not sharing their stress and struggle and overwhelm and times when they fail and falter. And therefore we are left alone in that. Alone, thinking that it's just us. And that is where we then get into the swirl of, you know, it's just me, I'm a bad person. I'm not good enough. I should be more, this, I shouldn't be more that, and that is the complete opposite of being self-compassionate.

And so certainly one of the steps to self-compassion is that what Kristin Neff calls that sort of shared humanity to realize that to be human is actually to suffer and struggle at times. And if we are human and we are not, then either we're not not living on the edge, close enough, you know, we're not really in the game of life or we're lying to ourselves. I think that might be a brave call, but you know, if we're, you know, someone somewhere along the line, maybe it was Susan David said, you know, that we only stop that when we're dead but you know if you're, if you're a feeling human being, then you will have times of that. And that's about just getting real.

[00:34:31] Ellen: Yeah. Uh, you mentioned social media before, and I think it's an interesting, the big challenge with social media is of course that we have curated feeds of that's all we're looking for. Then that's all we'll say. If we start going looking for, or if we follow people who are vulnerable and who do share, then we start to see more of that messaging as well.

And I actually found, this came up in my feed this morning on Instagram, so fully social media. I mentioned this one to you earlier, but I wanted to read it to our listeners. So Scott Barry Kaufman, who I'm a big fan of who is the host of the Psychology Podcast and this just popped up in my feed this morning that he posted.

And it struck me given the note of our conversation today. He says if only each of us realized the full extent to which all our problems, fears and desires are shared by the rest of humanity. We'd all be so much more connected, self forgiving, vulnerable, open, and free. And it just that.

[00:35:32] Marie: Oh, I love it.

[00:35:33] Ellen: Is the essence of common humanity.

Isn't it? This idea that if we realize that those things that we grapple with, those things that we worry about. Things that we feel are just our problem and our concern and our need is really in fact, the exact same problem and fear and need, perhaps not exactly the same, but certainly some variation of as every other human beings.

So just the ones we know, but the ones we don't know, you know, the ones all over the world, all over the globe. And there is a sense of comfort that comes I think anyway, and this has been, common humanity has been a really core element for me in understanding self-compassion and in that, starting to shift my mindset around some of these things we worry about just say, and I've found it so freeing to be able to say, when something goes wrong or I'm struggling with something or something isn't working, instead of beating myself, I'm just like, oh my god, I'm just a human, just a human being.

[00:36:31] Marie: Yeah.

[00:36:31] Ellen: You know, I messed it up because we're humans and we know and that notion that if we started to realize that everybody was like that, yes, we would be a kinder place. I think we would be kinder people to ourselves and to others. I think there would be a lot more forgiveness that went on.

[00:36:51] Marie: It's the kind of me too, isn't it?

You know, the notion of, you probably had this as well Ellen, when you run groups for people and you know, you can provide the most amazing content in the world, but much of the magic or the fusion between, you know, what you bring and how the magic happens is what happens in a group of people when they get vulnerable with each other.

And they realize that they too are feeling that exact same way. And I just think we do a disservice. To ourselves when we are not sharing those more vulnerable parts of ourselves. And so I love the fact that there is a trend and you're so much more over and better at social media than me so you'd be the best one to ask.

But yes, I can acknowledge as well. Now that I think sometimes we are seeing people share a bit more of that. And I think that's fantastic that that's the case. So it's a common humanity and I love that quote. I hope I'm sure that we'll share that with our listeners. I think that's really fantastic. So our quest for compassion is going to be, um, as we've been saying around self-compassion and what we are going to see it as a quest again for ourselves as well as for our listeners, because you and I both acknowledged today that this is still a work in progress for us is to take a more self-compassion approach to ourselves when we are struggling or suffering a bit or just when we uh, stuffing things up, like maybe like we did last week and we'd set ourselves a goal and we didn't quite get there or, you know, for me, and if I snap at the kids or I'm not proud of the way that I show up some days, you know, those days

[00:38:26] Ellen: Absolutely.

[00:38:27] Marie: I hope you do?

[00:38:28] Ellen: I am not my best self today.

[00:38:32] Marie: And so it's those days. Right. And it's in those moments that self-compassion is needed most. There are three steps to self-compassion that I want to share with the listeners. And those are the exact things that we've been speaking about today. And we'll share a tip sheet and the link to that in our show notes from today.

But the first thing that we need to do is notice, right. We would need to notice and go, wow, this is hard. Like, I feel really stretched. I feel really tired. I feel depleted. I feel overwhelmed. I feel a failure. I feel, you know, all of these, I feel triggered, whatever it might be is to feel the feelings to notice them is the very first step.

The second step, as we've just been speaking about is to connect to common humanity is about knowing that we are all perfectly imperfect as the beautiful Brene Brown would say. So, recognizing that we are perfectly imperfect to be human is to struggle. And so I love the fact that you say to yourself, I'm only human.

I'm not a robot. I am human. And therefore I will feel, I will fail. I will stuff, things up sometimes. And the third step is to bring that intent to soothe ourselves rather than beating ourselves up. And so that soothing ourselves. This is the part where it's like being our own best friend, right? Because we're pretty good at soothing our friends, when we see them suffering. What do we do? What do we say to them? And how can we bring that to ourselves? And so using kind words in a kind tone, and also using gentle touch as silly as that may sound, but our brains respond to that the same way that, you know, we might speak to another person.

Imagine one of our children is suffering or our, your dog is suffering or a friend. So what kind of words, tone and touch would you use with them? And you can do that to yourself. So bringing your hand to your heart and feeling the warm fear and just holding it there at the same time, as you're saying, you're okay, you've got this.

Come on. You know, we've been here before and you know, this is the same as what everyone else would be feeling in this moment. And so, you know, it's useful perhaps to find those, those words that you frequently use for yourself, or you said that you say, I'm only human after all, you know, I might say you're enough.

It's okay, you've got this. And we can actually give ourselves a hug. We can actually sort of give ourselves some sort of strokes hold our own hand. And I know it sounds a bit woo woo, but there is good science around the fact that we can give ourselves a burst of oxytocin that calm and connect kind of hormone.

And so, the ability to also breathe and do a long exhale that tells us that we're safe as another good thing to do when we're soothing ourselves. So just to recap, those three steps would be to notice the moment of suffering to know that we're perfectly imperfect and to soothe ourselves with gentle words and gentle touch.

Does that sound like something that you can do, Ellen? That that's fair enough for our listeners.

[00:41:56] Ellen: Absolutely. And I think that third piece, when you were saying that it reminded me that I think it was probably Kristin Neff's work, which we'll link to in the show notes as well. Talking about speaking yourself as you would a friend. So that notion that if somebody came to you and said, oh my god, I've just messed something up. It's terrible. It's a disaster. You know, the sorts of things you might say would be, don't be ridiculous. I'm sure it's not a disaster. Let's talk our way through it. Let's find out what's happened. Let's see what we can do about it.

You know, you might go into problem solving mode with someone like that, or you might go into care mode or what you wouldn't do is what we tend to do to ourselves is say, hey, you really did. You know, you really, you really made a mess of that. And I don't know why you thought you were even going to be halfway competent at, I don't know why you even tried.

We would never say those things that somebody else.

[00:42:48] Marie: And why do we say them to ourselves?

[00:42:50] Ellen: Yeah. So it really brings us back to the beginning of this conversation, you know, about having that awareness, accepting that we do mess up, you know, I'm only human. Yeah. It's quite normal to fail for things not to work, to expect too much of ourselves at times, and that's okay. And then not beat ourselves up for it as a consequence. So we'll put those tips in the show notes, linked to tips on your website that will give everyone those three steps to self-compassion. It will be great to hear from everyone as to how you've gone. I will certainly put those into place.

I know already that I have, as I do, set a lot of goals, myself, things that I want to get done, I will undoubtedly not manage them all because I'm always overly optimistic about what I'm going to get done. So there'll be some interesting self-compassion conversations in there about being human and, and being okay with the fact that's sometimes we don't meet our own expectations. So I'm really preempting some of the conversations I'll have with myself, but of course, I don't know what's going to happen in the next week. Who knows what's in the corner? And who knows what conversations and opportunities for self-compassion might arise.

[00:44:01] Marie: Indeed.

I'm looking forward to that as well. And so, yes, let's go forth and remember to treat ourselves as our own bestfriend because we know we're pretty good at being best friends. And now we can just kind of apply that to ourselves. And that is really the easiest way to remember what self-compassion is. So I think that's a good, a good way to end and a great conversation. I love this topic. I think it's, so it's been very, very transformative and important for me. And I hope that it's really useful for our listeners as well.

[00:44:30] Ellen: I know it will be. Thank you, Marie. We'll see you next week.

[00:44:32] Marie: Awesome. See you then, Ellen. Have a great one.

[00:44:37] Ellen: Thank you for joining us for this episode of How To Thrive a special edition series of the Potential Psychology Podcast.

Co-hosted with Marie McLeod and I hope our conversation about compassion and self-compassion got you thinking that is a topic that we've covered here on the show before during a number of conversations, but most notably in my interview with Dr. Stan Steindl, author of The Gift of Compassion, which was earlier this year. And we've included a link to that conversation in the show notes for the episode, along with the links to other resources we mentioned today and Marie's tips for greater compassion.

And of course, don't forget our quest for the week, how will you incorporate more compassion into your life? How could you maybe show yourself more self-compassion and if you'd like to let us know how you're going with your How To Thrive quest or you have a question or you'd just like to say hi, you can, via our brand new email address it's just for podcast correspondence.

It is [email protected] and I have a little update on my new online lessons for leaders masterclass, Creating Hard Stops On Meeting Creep and Zoom Gloom. We are now open for enrollments. If you pop over to you'll find all the details of the program there, it is six short lessons guiding you through the how to, of creating a thriving team, working in a hybrid manner.

So a little bit of office and a bit of work from home. It is the new way of working and we're going to answer questions like what tasks should our team prioritize during office time versus work from home time, there is a bit of strategy around this. How should we structure work from home days to get our work-life balance, right?

What's best for motivation office or home or both? And why? And how do I talk to my team about how we work? How do I create a plan for ensuring that we're working at our best as a hybrid team in 2022? This is our opportunity to get a lot more intentional about hybrid work and work from home to ensure that we're taking full advantage of the opportunities and perhaps overcoming some of the challenges. So you can find out more and register at Okay, so that's me signing out for this week. Good luck with your quest for greater compassion. We will be back next week to talk about optimism and how we can develop the skill of looking at life a little more half full. I'll give you a tip it's to do with positive emotions. I'm looking forward to being back with you then, but in the meantime, as always, go forth on your quest to thrive and take small or big steps to fulfill your potential.