The most recent wave of Research in the area of Mindfulness has looked at the connection between Mindfulness & Self-Compassion.
One pioneer in this area is Dr. Kristin Neff, who describes Self-Compassion as having the following three aspects:
- Self-Kindness (instead of Self-Judgement)
- Common humanity (instead of isolation)
- Mindfulness (instead of over-identification)
You can see more about Dr Neff’s work at self-compassion.org
Lets look at these three aspects of self-compassion in relation to our own teaching.
How do we treat ourselves when we fall short of our ideals? More specifically, how do we think about ourselves?
As teachers we probably did well when we were at school. We also tend to have high standards towards our students. Does that make us likely to have high or even unrealistic standards for ourselves?
Can we accept the times when we don’t reach those standards?
Instead of moving into anger or self-criticism, can we treat ourselves gently when we fail? Can we be warm towards ourselves, understanding that to be human is to be imperfect.
It is easy to become isolated in teaching, each of us within our own classrooms, imagining that we are the only ones struggling.
A broader perspective is that we are all dealing with difficulties, in teaching and in life. The schools where the challenges of teaching are discussed with colleagues allow that sense of common humanity to come through. Even having a few friends to chat with can give us the sense the we don’t have to go through our struggles alone.
We cannot develop self-compassion without looking at our pain and the things we are struggling with.
Often in teaching the solution to our challenges is to ignore them and struggle on until the next school holidays. In the long run though, ignoring or suppressing our pain doesn’t really work.
On the other hand, looking at negative emotions is difficult. It can be easy to get caught up in them and exaggerate them.
That’s where mindfulness practice is so helpful. Over time we become able to observe negative thoughts with balance and clarity. Tiredness is just tiredness. Irritation is just irritation. These thoughts and emotions come up, last for a while, and move on.
This all takes practice though and doesn’t mean that teaching or life becomes easy. It just gives us the chance to see things more clearly and be more kind towards ourselves when we inevitably struggle.
If you would like to try out a short Mindfulness practice have a look at our Free 3 Step Practice.