Yoga, self-compassion and being a better friend to yourself

Be more cat

What is the most overused, over-discussed topic in the yoga world? The one that appears in countless Instagram posts or blog posts or other type of yoga-related paraphernalia?

I’m about to fall into the black hole of a massive cliche. I’ve been trying to avoid it for ages but it’s rearing to get out. I’m sorry readers. It’s happening.

And the winner is…

Ahimsa – just try it now, Google Ahimsa and you’ll find every yoga-related person under the sun and their thoughts and interpretation of what this means. So let’s contribute to this.

It means doing no harm. It means kindness, non-violence.

Like everything in life, people interpret it in their own way – being kind towards others, not harming animals, not harming the planet, not being a dick to yourself and to others. In the context of this post, I am referring to ahimsa as self-compassion (and a bit of self-awareness).

I guess like all cliches, it’s a cliche for a reason. That and clearly I’m not as original as I like to think I am. You probably shouldn’t read the rest of this post – oh wait, watch me demonstrate a failure in self-compassion and kindness.

We’re not very good at this

Last week I met up with a friend for a walk, one of these long lockdown walks that you don’t really want to end because that is really the only 3D human contact you have these days (beyond anyone you live with anyway).

Our conversation reminded me that many of us, myself included, are very bad friends to ourselves. We are great at giving all the advice and support, but when it comes to us, our efforts don’t stack up.

I found myself listening to my friend not seeing what I could see, not recognising how talented and qualified she is to do what she wants to do. I had to do that thing where you want to shake the other person and tell them “seriously. you can do this” and actually really mean it.

This is the same friend who, 2–3 years ago, shone a mirror to me to make me see how I was holding myself back with limiting beliefs, self-doubt and impostor syndrome. She did the figurative shaking.

You need to meet yourself. You might really like her.

Niko Everett

I find myself doing this a lot. Giving great advice to people. Sharing tips for self-care. Sharing honest views on how much I valued what they’ve created. It’s so much easier to do it for others.

The qualities of a good friend

If you’ve ever done therapy or coaching you may be familiar with the exercise of writing down all your thoughts and then asking yourself if you would ever speak to a friend in the same way.

I actually cried.

A good friend does not behave in this way. A good friend doesn’t say all these horrible things. You certainly wouldn’t stay friends with this person because they are truly vile. But you’re stuck with them.

A good friend is also honest about your strengths and limitations. A good friend sees potential and encourages you forward, and gives constructive feedback where you need to develop.

(Have a look at this article, which argues that self-compassion is important for growth and tied to a growth mindset – that’s where the quote below is from. And if you haven’t read Growth Mindset, I really recommend it).

Convincing ourselves that we are better than we are leads to complacency, and thinking we’re worse than we are leads to defeatism.

Serena Chen

You need to meet yourself

I’m not a therapist. I’m not a coach. I’m not really into positive thinking either. I’m not even sure where this post came from and why I wanted to write it. It’s certainly a bit of a deviation to what I usually like to write.

Maybe I just wanted to share this Ted Talk with you. Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Maybe it will help you be a better friend to yourself.

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