You know that self-love is the foundation of standing in your power. But do you genuinely embrace self-compassion in how you relate to yourself and others?
Emotional intelligence comprises four elements: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management (social skills). While it might seem that self-compassion only applies to the first two elements, I think you’ll find that it amplifies your ability to be socially aware and manage relationships more effectively.
What is self-compassion?
What is love? Well, there are seven types of love that we typically know:
- Eros: erotic, passionate love.
- Philia: love of friends and equals (affectionate and friendly), but this is a deep trust and bond that stands the test of time.
- Storge: parents’ protective love for children – usually referred to as “unconditional love”. While it’s very similar to philia, it is reinforced by blood, early memories, and familiarity. And it might be more “one-sided” than philia, such as a parent towards their teenage child.
- Agape: selfless, universal love; loving-kindness.
- Ludus – playful, flirtatious love, like with no strings.
- Pragma – You might notice it’s “pragmatic” – committed, enduring love – grounded in duty, commitment, and practicality.
- Philautia – Self Love: impacts our confidence and self-esteem, especially how we interact with the world.
Of course, one more is sometimes referred to, which you may or may not consider love: mania. You guessed it: that crazy, obsessive love! It could be toxic, co-dependent or any other type of fundamental imbalance.
So, why am I referring to compassion and self-compassion rather than love and self-love? Because of these seven different types of love that people commonly ascribe to the word “love”. Often, love is referred to as a feeling rather than the resulting actions and behaviour.
Compassion is love in action.
It might be self-compassion (love of self in action) or compassion towards others. When you are compassionate, you embody a connection with yourself and others.
While compassion may not refer so much to eros or ludus and certainly not to mania, it is the embodiment of the consciousness of loving-kindness of philia, storge, agape, pragma, and philautia.
Self-compassion refers to mindfulness, self-awareness, kindness towards yourself, and understanding. When you are compassionate towards yourself, you forgive yourself and make amends. You choose to hold healthy boundaries in relationships rather than being a doormat and pushover.
Self-compassion is strong and courageous: it empowers you to have difficult conversations and confront situations calmly. It’s not a stiff upper lip and suppression of emotions but a healthy release of whatever you need to let go.
This is why self-compassion makes for powerful emotional intelligence: it empowers you to face your feelings, healthily deal with them, have empathy and understanding of others and build stronger relationships and networks.
Self-compassion is essential if you want to become self-aware.
Are you willing to make time to sit with your feelings and emotions, even the uncomfortable ones? Loving yourself entirely is more than just some fuzzy feeling: it understands your motivations and behaviours, even the ones you disdain. Allow yourself to understand your strengths and weaknesses, their effects on your life and how you respond to situations and others.
When you practice self-awareness, you will recognise your emotional response to interactions and how these feelings affect your thoughts and behaviours. It also notices that these responses affect how others interact with you and any self-perpetuating cycles that you are creating.
Once you have built self-awareness, you will have faith in yourself to put yourself forward, knowing you can rely on your gut feelings when things are clear. Most importantly, you can show up as authentically you. This is the true power of self-compassion: kindness in action for yourself.
Self-management is a reflection of loving yourself:
The second part of emotional intelligence and self-compassion is that you not only notice your feelings, you decide how to express and release them. You create emotional security, knowing it is safe to have big emotions and the self-awareness to know where, when and who should be present with you as you work through them.
It is possible to have emotional intelligence when you are led by your heart: it doesn’t mean that you wear your heart on your sleeve or suppress all emotions and keep a stiff upper lip.
When you love yourself fully, you monitor your mental state and control your thoughts. You might not be able to control the first thought that comes into your head, but you can choose not to play it on repeat.
It’s also possible to control your self-talk and inner critic compassionately: avoiding self-sabotage is essential to self-management.
Whether it’s at work or with others, staying in the flow state of being calm and at ease is essential. Self-compassion knows that the best decisions are made in a calm state: you need circulation to all parts of the body and brain in perfect harmony and balance rather than being in a state of fight/flight or emotionally overwhelmed.
In this state of self-management, you can access inner wisdom and listen for that still, small voice.
Social awareness: empathy and love of others
Having empathy and understanding for others usually starts with being self-aware. When you know your weaknesses and short-fallings, you understand others better. You can read other people’s emotions and feelings when you recognise them within yourself. Compassion and connection are only available when you have an open heart.
Social awareness is the ability to read body language, often mirroring another person, to create rapport and connection. Self-compassion allows you to notice the shifts you feel in your body as you connect and the awareness of what the other person might feel as a reflection of this connection.
Social awareness is more than just reading the room and noticing a person’s body language. It is also the ability to explain yourself and be aware of how you are understood. Communication is not what you say but what others hear and understand. Self-compassion allows you to modify your vocabulary, body language and connection to create rapport for understanding.
Most importantly, self-compassion will give you a warm embrace when you make a mistake in your social awareness and encourage you to try again.
Build new relationships: Social management
Emotional intelligence isn’t something just for managers and those in leadership. Self-love is reflected in how you build authentic relationships with others. You will make the compassionate choice to build new relationships that are healthy and aligned with your values and purpose.
It’s an essential skill for parents, community members and solo entrepreneurs.
No man is an island.
Your ability to influence, articulate and motivate others depends entirely on your ability to engage with others socially. Every relationship requires conflict management, which allows you to improve the relationship by settling differences of opinion and misunderstandings.
If you want to be a catalyst of change, you’ll need to influence others to join the journey. Sometimes, you might need to help others develop their skills and knowledge. You will be part of a team, working with others at other times.
Self-compassion is the impetus to build healthy and supportive relationships. It recognises that your social skills, emotional resilience and self-awareness all contribute to the quality of your life.
Start with the consciousness of connection:
It all begins with you: how are you connecting to all parts of yourself?
- sensations and bodily experiences
- lifestyle choices
- relationships and support
- professional growth
Take a moment and look within with eyes of compassion. What would it mean to treat yourself with loving-kindness?