I talk about self-compassion a lot with my clients, supervisees and anyone else who will listen because learning to connect with my own has made a huge positive difference to my wellbeing. It is also a huge part of my journey to understanding and accepting my myself I truly am. I’m sure my experience of discovering my autistic identity would have been very different if I hadn’t already spent many years working to strengthen my compassionate self and believing that I was worthy of receiving its care. I started this work at a conference on compassionate mental health where I was first introduced to Compassion Focused Therapy and took part in a workshop. As part of the session, we were invited to take part in a visualisation where we met our compassionate self and it was one of the most powerful exercises I have done.
When I first met my compassionate self, she was an older, wiser version of me with long hair and hippy clothes and being in her presence made me feel safe and nurtured in a way that I can struggle to trust. I was amazed, that having experienced that feeling in the visualisation I was able to connect with it more easily in other situations and I found a new softness in the way I responded to myself (at least some of the time). I was inspired to do some further study on working with compassion focused therapy and integrated it into my way of working, but I hadn’t explicitly thought about this embodiment of my compassionate self for a while.
In my most recent round of therapy (I like to dip in and out of it periodically as part of my self care) I found myself working with compassion again, although this time more focused on a younger part of me (the bit that didn’t know she was autistic and thought she was just broken). As part of the work, I re-connected with my compassionate self, and this time that part took the form of a panda. This ‘panda part’ of me, I came to understand, was a not just an aspect of my compassionate self but an embodiment of my self-compassion. It seems fitting that it takes the form of what was my favourite animal as a child, which made it easier for my younger part to accept its care.
Having connected with my inner panda I made a concerted effort to nourish that part of myself. I as I am typing this blog I am wearing panda socks, behind me is a collection of panda lego, I have a panda plant pot in front of me and I am drinking tea from a panda mug. Most importantly I now have panda teddies on each floor of my house ready to bring me comfort wherever I need it. These pandas are a constant reminder to me to invite in some compassion for myself, to know that I am as deserving of care as anyone else and to create the space for this even when it feels self-indulgent or selfish. The pandas make it much harder to ignore my needs, because who would argue with a panda.
I’d love to know what helps you remember to be kind to yourself and find softness in your life.