Try a little tenderness

by | Sep 2, 2022 | Compassion, Thoughts

Compassion is essential for the survival of our species. So why are we so reluctant to be compassionate with ourselves?

Counsellors often talk about the importance of self-compassion, of being kind to yourself. Many of us struggle on through life encumbered by a mean-spirited inner voice that shames us into submission or chastises us harshly when we make even the most innocent errors. The poor self-image we carry is the story we tell ourselves about who we are and for many, that personal script includes the most vicious judgements, that we’re stupid, useless, ugly, a waste of time. When we feel like this about ourselves, an invitation to ‘be kind to yourself’ is usually greeted with hollow laughter. And yet science and philosophy show that compassion is key to our survival as a species. It alleviates distress. It helps us cope with the slings and arrows of life. It soothes and comforts. It can even help to heal us. So, far from being a nice but rather soppy attribute, it’s essential to our health and wellbeing.


So how to promote a little compassion for ourselves especially when things are tough, when we’re feeling low or anxious?I’ve found a surprising way to evoke a little tenderness for myself – and I stumbled upon it when I was going through some old photographs. Among all the black and white prints from my mother’s trusty Box Brownie camera was this photograph of me learning to ride my bike. My moment of cycling victory (thanks to the stabilisers) is captured in my expression. The feelings of pride at my achievement come flooding back when I look upon this funny little girl with her striped trousers, Clarks school shoes and Tufty club badge. My heart melts. I’m instantly connected with my most vulnerable part and I feel tenderness towards her. Even as I enter my seventh decade, there’s a substantial part of me that is still the funny kid on the bike hoping someone will notice how well she’s doing. The fact that I might choose to be harsh or cruel to her is unthinkable.

Want to unlock some compassion for yourself? Look through your old childhood photographs – and I dare you to be nasty to the little kid who looks back at you.

1 Comment

  1. Kathleen Garbett

    Dear Mel. I’m so glad I have come across and read your article “Try a little Tenderness”. I am also a woman in her seventh decade and have just a handful of photos of me growing up, also taken on a Brownie box camera! I can appreciate and feel the importance and effect of such small elements of your photo, such as your tufty club badge. I completely understand the feelings it stirs in you towards yourself through that childhood photo; it truly is heart-melting. I envy you that little photo and all you can take from it. It’s lovely. Thank you for sharing it.


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