Why self- compassion for teachers?
My interest in self-compassion comes from my own messy exploration of this concept. At a certain stage in my teaching career, I noticed I was quite hard on myself. I’d hear the inner critic telling me things I could never imagine myself saying to a friend or colleague. I wondered how could I could be so mean to myself.
Then, while working with teachers, they shared similar stories about their inner critics. This self-criticism was often compounded by the pressures they felt at school: unrealistic expectations from their school principles, piles of paperwork, unmotivated students, and sometimes violent parents. These are only a few examples of the emotional toll they carried and shared with me.
Feeling the personal harm of self-criticism, and hearing the pain in these teachers’ stories, I began to understand the challenge of teaching when you feel emotionally depleted. How can we expect to teach wholeheartedly when we don’t feel supported or cared for?
This is where #RedThumbForLove comes from (click here for the story of origin). This project comes from a desire to understand how I can be kinder and more understanding with myself, and at the same time, help teachers find a similar peace. Because while I still hear the inner critic, now it isn’t the only voice I hear.
I first came across the idea of self-compassion (I then called it self-empathy) via the work of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. The idea that I could offer myself care was refreshing to say the least. This concept may seem obvious to some, but it wasn’t a strategy that came easily to me.
Not too long after discovering the idea and strategies for self-empathy, I discovered Kristin Neff’s research. When I talk about self-compassion, it is with her definition in mind:
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.” – Kristin Neff
But what about this “red thumb” idea? Let me explain.
What is #RedThumbForLove?
Teaching can be a lonely profession. Often, we don’t have anyone to turn to who understands the challenges we face. Self-care may be the only strategy we can turn to when the job gets too hard. This blog is a place to celebrate adventures in self-care and self-compassion by using the #RedThumbForLove strategy, as well as others.
#RedThumbForLove is about visually inspiring teachers to be self-compassionate. When you feel overwhelmed, this little self-compassion reminder may just be the thing to bring you a little ease. Paint your thumbnail red or any colour of the rainbow, so that each time you see it you are reminded to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate with yourself. Each time you look at your coloured nail, check your state of mind to see if you’re in your old pattern of blame or shame, and remember that you are doing the best you can at that moment. Acknowledge what you are feeling: don’t push it away and don’t dwell in it. Just feel it.
Who is this #RedThumbForLove for?
– Current teachers
– Teachers in training
– Retired teachers
– People who used be teachers but changed careers
– Friends and family of teachers
– People who think teachers do amazing work and need a little support
What is the future of #RedThumbForLove?
Currently #RedThumbForLove lives on this blog and on its Facebook page. This is where I curate stories of self-compassion, resilience, mindfulness, kindness, and well-being, all with teachers in mind. My dream is to one day help create communities where teachers can meet to offer support and share stories of self-compassion and wellbeing. I imagine these communities would be founded on unwavering support, healing play, and vulnerable courage.
If this type of community sounds appealing to you, please contact me via the links on the homepage under the #RedThumbForLove image.
PS. You can also find me at my main blog, Throwing Back Tokens.