Tag Archives: loving oneself

One Small Step Toward Self Compassion

This one small step

when undertaken consciously

can transform your inner landscape from

 the dark and narrow back-streets of anger, criticism, fear and judgment

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into a bright and spacious landscape of compassionate curiosity.

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What’s to loose, right?

So, please hear me through and give it a go before you decide either that ~

  • I’m a fruit loop (which just may be true!) or
  • That this is not for you (which I hope is not true).

Here’s the idea.

Every time you hear your own inner voice of anger, criticism, fear and judgment go off on you with variations of you’re ~

  • no good
  • stupid
  • a failure
  • cowardly
  • wrong
  • lazy
  • forever doomed to be alone
  • unlovable
  • unworthy
  • fundamentally a looser

Do this ~

Visualize the voice as coming from a small, frightened Part of you cowering in that dark alley. Turn toward this cowering Part, thank it, and let it know you’d like to understand it more fully.


Say, “Well hello!  I hear that you’re angry, or worried that I’m no good or stupid or a failure.  I know you are telling me this for a reason and I’d like to hear what you have to tell me.”

Even if this Part says this to you often, my guess is you usually do not give it the time of day.

My guess is you turn away from it.

My guess is that you meet your ~

  • angry Parts with anger
  • critical Parts with criticism
  • judgmental Parts with judgment
  • fearful Parts with fear.

Whatever the initial feeling your Part expresses, instead of listening to it, my guess is you compound it with more of the same.

As Thich Nhat Hanh said:

If we become angry at our anger, we will have two angers at the same time.

So, what to do?

Turn toward this frightened young Part, take it by the hand and lead it out of that narrow, confining, oppressive alley and into a sun-lit meadow. Sit down next to it and invite it to tell you what it needs you to hear. You are there to listen. You are there to listen to understand the concerns, not listen to agree.

The magic?

Once you turn toward your anger, criticism, judgment or fear and invite it to tell you more, you are no longer that Part. You are your Self listening to that Part. YOU have separated from IT.

You have opened up some space between YOU and this PART. Which invites “YOU” into the picture. The “YOU” who is way more than just a small young frightened Part .

This “YOU”, with the spaciousness of the bright meadow, sees so much more of who you are and how you might be actually dealing with whatever the issue was that triggered this young frightened outburst.

Maybe you also see Parts of you are are:

  • kind
  • bright
  • successful
  • brave
  • often right
  • hardworking
  • a good friend
  • lovable
  • worthy
  • fundamentally OK

These Parts are also YOU.

Here is Thich Nhat Hanh again:

We only have to observe it with love and attention. If we take care
of our anger this way, without trying to run away from it, it will transform itself.

OK that’s it!

Is there more one can do to cultivate Self-Compassion?

Yes – and if you’re interested, I highly recommend you allow  Dr. Kristin Neff  to be your guide.

But this one small step is key.

This one small step allows you to see the limits of the dark alley-way script which – when confined to the alley – felt like it was the only narrative. This one small step allows you to access so much more of who you are. This one small step allows you to bring compassion, gratitude and perspective to this Part.

And, if you’re interested in hearing more about working with these Parts of you – one place to begin is an earlier blog post, Part of Me Wants


I’m exploring what it looks like to get your needs met in healthy ways.


This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you’re interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.



SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity


SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

SKILL SEVEN ~ Practice Kindness


How To Silence Your Inner Critic #1

Last post I described my house mates.

More my “head mates” really.  Personifications of the voices that used to yammer away inside.

A few of you have shared you live with some of these as well ~

  • The critic
  • The task-master
  • The slob
  • The pessimist
  • The skeptic
  • The saboteur

and you’re keen (to quote one reader, thanks  Carrie!) to know  “how the hell do I get them out of here?”

I’ll tell you, I promise.

But first, I want this post to be an inspiring look at what life can be like without the inner dysfunctional family having a constant go at you.

Meet Colin.Scanned Image

Here he is, climbing up a peak near Sun Valley Idaho one sunny March day back in the late 1980s.

Can you tell from this photo how unusual he is?

I couldn’t, at first anyway. As we climbed a snowy hill together I had no idea what an impact he would have on my life.

Until I watched him ski.


Three things became apparent once we reached the highest point.

  • The only way out was down
  • Colin had neglected to mention that he hadn’t skied before
  • He was totally up for the challenge.


The trailLearning something new, under duress, with an audience has never showcased my best self, I gotta admit.  So, not optimal conditions for Colin.

He was a visiting Kiwi (those of you who know New Zealanders will recognize this as a code term for up-for-anything) whose Bucket List included some snow time. He’d accepted an invitation to play in the mountains around Sun Valley on borrowed equipment and it had never occurred to him (nor us, apparently) to talk about how to use the darn stuff. We all used thin, highly cambered, light-weight cross-country skis, long poles, and low leather lace-ups. (Remember – we’re back in the 1980s all you hard-core mountain folk who ski anything today on short, wide skis and knee-high plastic boots).


Here we are near the top, still smiling.Mark, Karl, Colin

Climbing skins off the skis, we’re ready for the descent. Colin’s looking at Karl (middle) and my husband Mark (left).

We’re laughing because Colin’s just mentioned he hasn’t skied before.

We’re sure he’s pulling our legs and will soon zoom down in a series of elegant linked telemark turns.

Meanwhile, my inner nay-Sayers have been hard at work all day:

Task-master       ~  Can’t you pick up the pace. Look, Mark’s been breaking trail for ages.  You’re such a mooch… step it up there.”

The slob              ~  This is hard work. It’s OK to slow things down. Maybe call for another chocolate break.

The saboteur     ~  “I should have opted to stay home. I’m in a filthy mood right now. None of this snow is going to be any good by the time we turn around anyway.

The pessimist       ~ “And you’ll be last down the hill as well as up. You’ll fall the whole way down and be an utter disgrace as usual. How long have you been learning how to ski now? When are you going to get it down – eh?”

So when Colin, still chuckling at our disbelief, pointed his skis down the hill and crashed spectacularly into a shrub about 30 feet below us, we all paused.

He couldn’t ski!

I won’t describe how Mark skis. To this day it’s slightly depressing. He’s smooth, elegant, flawless and constantly grinning. He’s in his element. Karl and I were on a perpetual learning curve. We all joined Colin at the bush and now I was curious and my inner voices were having a field day:

The critic                ~  “Well, at least you won’t be the worst on the hill for a change.”

The task-master    ~  “Better pick your game here girl, so you can show Colin a thing or two.”


Here’s what Colin did.

He picked himself up and said, with a mix of excitement and curiosity, “So, teach me how to do these turns, they look beautiful!

We all gave our versions of how to (essentially back then) genuflect down the mountain. I found a fun old video if you’re interested!  And Colin applied himself. He did what we suggested and of course, fell down a few times. It’s a tough turn to master on smooth terrain, and here was Colin on a wind-swept mountain.

I watched him for a long time. He’d pick himself up from the latest crash and say, partly to himself and partly to us,   “OK, so I think I forgot to bend my downhill knee but I stepped into the turn well and feel I’m getting the weight distribution right. What do you think?”

We’d make a few pointers and he’d try again.

Within about 300 feet of the summit, he was linking his first few turns.

Karl and I had taken some spills too and was I speaking so gently, thoughtfully and constructively to myself?

Hell no!

The critic        ~  “Good heavens girl you’re a hopeless bundle of muscle-free, uncoordinated body parts. You know how to do this and here you are totally shown up by  a total newbie. Come on!”

Versions of this went on for the entire descent.

Colin, who had no experience of using the telemark turn on cross-country skis, loved himself down the mountain. At each turn he was celebrating accomplishments and gently correcting his setbacks. He was never mad at himself, only curious and brave and confident he would eventually master the turn.

There was I, hating and berating myself down the hill, same as I had for the previous six years of learning how to ski. I doubt my skills advanced at all that day.

Colin mastered a new skill by allowing his core Self to take the lead.

This core Self (which we all have by the way) is ~

  • Calm
  • Clear
  • Compassionate
  • Connected
  • Courageous
  • Confident
  • Curious
  • Creative

and ever so much more fun to live with!

Over a warm drink later that night I asked Colin how come he wasn’t disgusted with himself when he fell, or critical of himself when he didn’t get something right, or grumpy or pushy or skeptical or any of the voices I seemed to activate in the face of a typical day.

He laughed.

“Oh I had ‘em all in there alright.  It was crowded and nasty and I was pretty miserable through my twenties. But everything changed when I tried a whole new approach…”

Next: How Colin silenced his inner critic (and all those other tough inner-relations) and learned how to lead from his Core Self.