How good are you at taking a compliment?

Do you find yourself deflecting with some version of “Oh, this old thing?” or “Seriously? I look exhausted, barely slept last night!”

When you look at yourself in the mirror, what thoughts arise? Do you take time to truly look into your eyes and smile? Give yourself a compliment?

For so many years, I’d look in the mirror or at photos and see only my flaws (as I imagined them to be).

My father always told me I was pretty but c’mon, he was totally biased. And when I began having boyfriends and flings in my 20s and 30s, I felt attractive…as long as someone was interested in me.

But I also often felt lacking; I kind of liked myself, and also didn’t think much of myself a lot of the time. It was a real tug-of-war, and I often fell on my ass in the mud of my unkind thinking.

Fierce self-compassion doesn’t come easy for most of us.

Yet I’ve come to see it as a vital component of a satisfying, soulful life.

I use the word fierce on purpose. It takes a certain level of fierceness to be unconditionally kind to yourself.

What I’m talking about here isn’t self-indulgence or denial. It’s not about giving yourself permission to down that pint of Chubby Hubby or binge watch an entire season of Schitt’s Creek. (Although it might include a scoop or two and a couple of episodes.)

It’s about trusting in the goodness of your own pure heart, and turning that goodness on yourself.

It’s about giving yourself space to tune into what you’re feeling – however you need to create it – and trusting that those around you can manage their own feelings and actions.

It’s about going against the grain of how you were brought up, or what you think makes for being “good.”

As women, we’re raised and enculturated to focus on others, putting their needs above our own. And yes, it’s good to think beyond yourself, but not to the point where you bury yourself. 

It happens more easily and stealthily than we realize.

Fierce self-compassion isn’t automatic; it must be cultivated, tended like a precious garden where you pull out the weeds of negative bias, nourish the soil by letting yourself off the hook more often than not, and water your weary heart and soul with practices of compassion and self-love.

It’s less a Stuart Smiley variation of saying affirmations into the mirror where they mostly bounce off, and treating yourself as you treat your very best friend; being real, yet always turning that mirror of truth and beauty back on yourself.

  • The next time someone offers you a compliment, simply say “thank you.” No editorializing. No deflecting. Soften your breath and take it in.
  • The next time you glance in the mirror and think “ugh,” notice, pause, and take another look. Look into your eyes. Look into your heart. Smile at yourself, and take that in.
  • The next time you find yourself mentally berating or beating yourself up, stop. Take a breath, then another. Place one hand on your heart and say to yourself as you would to your dearest friend or loved one “Sweetheart. You’re having a rough time. It’s OK, but don’t take it out on yourself. Take a moment to simply be present to what’s arising.”

This is fierce self-compassion in action. Noticing. Pausing. Breathing. Being. Shifting.

Please give it to yourself as often as possible.

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