Life is gonna life. Although that might not be the most warm-fuzzy kind of way to start an article, that doesn’t make the fact any less true — and real. And since, as the Good Book says (Ecclesiastes 3), there is a time and season for everything, including weeping, losing, mourning, and other challenges, it’s really important that we exercise compassion.
Compassion is all about seeing the stress and hard times that someone is going through and having a strong desire to reduce it in some way. It’s about extending empathy. It’s about showing kindness (more on that in a bit). It’s also about giving the kind of support and space for them to feel, then heal, then come out a better version of themselves as a direct result of whatever got them to a place of needing some compassion in the first place.
Don’t get me started on how many of us could stand to take a master class as it relates to extending compassion overall. Oh, but if there’s one “compassion lane” that very few seem to drive on through life at all, it’s self-compassion — you know, learning not to be so hard on yourself, coming up with ways to extend yourself some mercy and tenderness, doing things that will soften your heart towards your own self.
While recently reading an article on self-compassion, I peeped a line in it that said, “I am patient with the process of becoming who I am.” And honestly, I don’t know if self-compassion can be explained any clearer than that.
So, what if you’re someone who knows that you could stand to learn more about the process and practice of becoming more self-compassionate yet you’re not exactly sure where to start? If that’s what’s going on, you’ve come to the right place. While these 12 tips only scratch the surface of how to give yourself more compassion, I think it will help you to get off to a really beautiful start.
1. Do Affirmation Meditations
Not too long ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about how much they overthink. When I asked them if they ever meditate, they said, “Every day. But after like two minutes, I have to do something else.” Umm…no. LOL. Believe it or not, for meditation to be truly effective, you need to devote somewhere between 20-45 minutes — still, calm, quiet.
Here’s the thing, though. You don’t have to sit in complete silence (if silence is a struggle for you). ASMR nature sounds (like rain, ocean waves, etc.), listening to guided instructions, or practicing mantras qualify as quality meditation too.
As far as mantras go, something that I sometimes recommend to my clients is doing affirmation meditations — you know, verbally reciting positive expressions about themselves. There are plenty of studies to support the fact that repeating things over and over can literally train your brain to think a certain way and even reprogram your subconscious. If you add to that the fact that meditation also helps to de-stress you, remove anxiety, boost creativity, keep you mindful, and help you to cope with “life life-ing”…why wouldn’t you want to love on yourself this way more often?
If affirmation mediations are something that interests you, over the next few days, come up with 10 sentences that will speak positivity in your space. Make sure that they are about building your self-esteem (like “I am rare and that is amazing”) and/or cultivating the kind of reality you want to have (like “I am in my purpose and my needs will be met because of it”). The more you declare these things, the easier it will be to become confident — and that can help you to feel good about yourself…no matter what may be happening around you.
2. Spend More Time in Nature
Every couple of years, I will revisit one of my favorite books —The Celestine Prophecy. One of my favorite takeaways is how important it is to spend time in nature in order to absorb some of its energy. Since taking a walk outside, doing some journaling outdoors, or even enjoying a sip of wine on your porch after dinner can help to calm you, improve your concentration, lower your risk for heart disease and give you a good dose of Vitamin D (which is a nutrient that an overwhelming amount of Black women are deficient that actually increases the chances of having bacterial vaginosis) — it is very clear how/why being outside as often as possible is truly an act of self-care.
3. Let Yourself Off of the Hook More Often
I am a firm believer that a part of the reason why a lot of people suck at forgiving others (check out “Are You A 'Bad Forgiver'? Read This And See.”) is because they suck even more at forgiving themselves. Just think about it — there is a certain level of awareness, humility, and understanding, when it comes to the mercy that you must have, to be able to grasp that if you want to only be around people who are not going to ever make mistakes, hurt your feelings or disappoint you, you might as well prepare to be mad on a daily basis because NOT EVEN YOU can pull that off with yourself (some of y’all will catch that later).
Without a doubt, forgiveness is an act of compassion because you are literally saying to others, “I get that you aren’t perfect and sometimes I need to not punish you for that fact.” This is such a profound way to live because it also means that you know that, sooner or later, the same forgiveness that you extend to others, you will need them to grant you — that’s how relationships work. Healthy ones anyway.
And here’s the thing — a great way to get some practice in this area is to forgive yourself — to literally “let yourself off of the hook” for things that you’ve done. It’s not about refusing to hold yourself accountable and/or not accepting the consequences that may come with your actions. It’s more about not rehearsing what transpired over and over again to the point where you build up resentment, humiliation, or even anger toward yourself. Because really, what good is that going to do?
Being compassionate by letting yourself off of the hook is taking time to feel what you feel and then choosing to learn from it and move on with the full intention of doing better the next time. I promise you that the more you learn to forgive, the less suffering you will experience — when it comes to how you deal with yourself and how you interact with others too.
4. Intentionally Reprogram “Negative Biases”
A couple of years ago, I penned an article for the platform entitled, “10 Ways To Keep Social Media From Triggering You (So Much).” One of the things that I mentioned in it is something known as negative (or negativity) bias. The science behind negative bias is that we’re basically hard-wired to lean toward negativity instead of positivity. This is why, if you ask someone to name five things that they like about themselves, they will probably mention the not-so-good stuff first or if a good news story pops up in a Twitter timeline, folks will skim over that and look for the entertainment gossip instead.
Another interesting thing about negative bias is it causes us to make decisions based on negative experiences instead of positive information that we may have received beforehand. In short, negative bias encourages us to take in intel that really isn’t beneficial — just easier to process because we naturally look at life from a glass-half-empty perspective.
So, now that you know what negative bias is, you might be curious about what you can do to avoid allowing it to consume you. One thing that you can do is take breaks from negativity — people, places, things, and ideas. Another thing that you can do is intentionally fill your being with positive things — upbeat music, positive conversations, and activities that make you feel good about yourself. Also, try and learn to see situations from a positive perspective — you know, like instead of constantly asking yourself, “Why is this always happening to me?” reframe your psyche by saying instead, “How is this going to work for my good?”
Working through negative biases requires quite a bit of intentionality and effort yet when you master putting the positive over the negative, it really can make you unstoppable on so many life-related levels.
5. Set Better Boundaries
There is a motto I made up some time ago that I have been rocking with that has brought me complete and total peace for a while now — “Be okay with being someone’s consequence. Sometimes you’ll be the best lesson that they will ever learn because you were the only one who followed through with a firm consequence for their actions.”
Listen, you don’t have the time and I don’t have the keystroke energy to get into how extreme I’ve had to go on setting limits with certain people because they were insistent on violating the boundaries that I set. It had gotten to the point where even hearing their name triggered feelings of anxiety and stress and that’s because not only were they not honoring my boundaries, but other people would try and make me feel bad for setting the boundary with them in the first place (which is just another form or revictimization).
If you don’t get nothin’ else out of this article, please hear me when I say that you should NEVER FEEL BAD FOR SETTING BOUNDARIES WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Boundaries convey limits. Boundaries are a form of protection. Boundaries are what help you to make the most out of your time, effort, energy, and resources too.
And just how can you know that you are someone who exists with healthy boundaries? Good question.
- If you don’t have a lot of toxic people in your life, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t struggle with making choices that are best for you, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t go through life feeling triggered all of the time, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you have no problem saying “no” and verbally stating your feelings and needs, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
- If you don’t allow people to gaslight or manipulate you, chances are, you’ve set good boundaries.
It’s a wise person who said that the only people who hate boundaries are the ones who have every intention of violating them once they are set. That said, never feel bad for placing limits that will help you to live your best life in a space of tranquility and harmony. After all, doing what will keep you safe is one of the best forms of self-compassion that there is.
6. Give Yourself a Head and/or Foot Massage
Something that I treated myself to a few months ago is a battery-operated scalp massager. Although the initial intention was so it would help with hair length retention, I’m also aware that giving myself a scalp massage does everything from increase blood circulation to my head and reduce tension to relieve headaches and help me to relax better before turning in at night.
Another way to treat yourself along these same lines is a foot massage. Although there’s nothing quite like booking a professional reflexology appointment, even if you warm up a mixture of a carrier oil (like sweet almond, grapeseed, or avocado) along with a few drops of a calming essential oil (like lavender, bergamot or chamomile) and rub your feet with it, applying gentle pressure to them will help to relieve tension, improve blood circulation to your feet, keep the muscles and tissues in your feet healthy, improve your quality of sleep at night and give you an energy boost during the day too.
7. Get on Some Sort of Subscription Service
A single woman was telling me recently that one thing that she hates about her relational status is her top love language is gifts and she wants to receive things from someone who she loves. “So, why not sign up for a subscription service?”, I asked her. She rolled her eyes and said, “That’s not what I mean.”
Girl, I know what you’re talking about but if you’re gonna wait for a man to send you some flowers, a bottle of wine, or your favorite self-care products — who knows when that will be? Not only that but you are actually volunteering to bring more stress and anxiety into your life by acting like you should put nurturing yourself on hold until someone else decides to do it for you.
Since these days, there are services that will mail you things on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis, why not budget to get on somebody’s list? These days, subscription services have become so popular that you can find one for make-up, hair care, clothing, jewelry, snacks, aromatherapy, plants — you name it (a list of some currently popular ones is located here, here, here, here and a list of Black-owned ones are found here)!
Hey, getting something in the mail that’s not a bill is always bomb…even if the item is actually coming from yourself. Feel me?
8. Spend Time with Your “Inner Little Girl”
As I’m currently getting certified to life coach in the area(s) of trauma, it has been…tragically wild to see how many other students have been traumatized due to having a toxic mother in their lives (past and current). I mean, you’ve already taken in so much information, so I’ll just say that if you can totally relate and there are areas where you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that your mother dropped the ball as you were growing up and it has caused some “holes” in your life because of it, something that can help is to nurture those very areas of yourself.
For instance, if you grew up with an emotionally abusive mother, there is no way around the fact that it did a number on your self-esteem. And that could be why, whenever someone teases you, even if it’s in jest, you find yourself super triggered, perhaps to the point of even throwing a mini-temper tantrum — it’s a wounded space where you are still emotionally “stuck” in a way.
So, what do you do? Journal about it. Pray about it. Speak to your space people about that being a “tender area” for you, so that they can be more gentle while interacting with you. Also, ponder what you wish you had received at the time, from your mother (or whoever caused the pain), and then accept that because you are now in complete control over your space and psyche, you can give your own self those things — then do just that.
There are plenty of studies to support that wherever a person was traumatized, they emotionally remain that age until they address it and heal from it. Therapy can be one way to do it. Another is to seek out those “inner little girl” places and give her the attention — the right kind of attention — that she never got before.
9. Speak to and About Yourself Without Violence
Hands down, one of my favorite things about this season of my life is a course that I’m taking on nonviolent communication. I’m telling you, the more that I deep dive into the topic, the more I see just how VIOLENT folks are while interacting with others.
Case in point. When I asked my instructor to break down what it means to be a nonviolent communicator to someone who may not be studying it at the level that I am, she shared something with me that I’ve been telling just about anyone who will listen. She said, “Shellie, if you are speaking to someone or they are speaking to you without the following three things being present, there is some form of violence that is transpiring, whether you realize it or not: safety, respect, understanding.”
Pretty powerful, right? In communication, people should feel safe enough to be their authentic selves, should know that their thoughts and feelings are going to be respected, and that the person who is listening to them is going to do their best to understand where they are coming from. Otherwise, there is more force, aggression, and stress in the exchange than there needs to be.
So, take a moment to ponder and process. Whether it’s your personal or professional relationships, who are the people you communicate nonviolently with? Who are the ones who communicate nonviolently with you? Honestly, a part of the reason why a lot of people struggle with self-compassion is they are constantly suffering at the hands of those who don’t engage them in a way that they should require — in a way that they should also…deliver. This includes speaking nonviolently to yourself.
10. Schedule Pampering, Leisure and Sleep Time
If you can’t remember the last time that you did something to treat yourself and also to get off of the grid (which is not necessarily the same thing, by the way) and your reason — which is really more like an excuse — is you’ve been too busy or you haven’t had the time, frankly, I don’t believe you. The saying that we make time for what is important to us doesn’t have exceptions; it’s true across the board. Besides, if you don’t “have time” to pamper yourself or do something that you truly enjoy, simply because you enjoy it, that’s a bit of a red flag, wouldn’t you say?
And don’t even get me started on sleep deprivation. So many folks are walking around here being moody as hell, totally unproductive at work, and with a weak immunity…and the root cause is they think that getting five hours of sleep is actually doing something. You’re not. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if you’re under 60, you need at least seven hours — not every once in a while…each and every night (if you’re over that, 7-9 is ideal).
So yes, scheduling in time for kind indulgence (pampering), relaxation and definitely sleep are sho ‘nuf acts of self-compassion. That’s why they should never be seen as luxuries; they are definitely necessities in life.
11. Learn the Differences Between Nice and Kind
I’m not big on the word “nice.” Honestly, I never really have been because it always feels so…performative to me. If you add to that the fact that even the Bible doesn’t say that “love is nice” but “love is KIND” (I Corinthians 13:4) — sticking with kind is the kind of hill that I am perfectly willing to die on.
Think about it. Being nice basically means that you’re an agreeable person and while there is a time and place for being that way, sometimes that’s how we get ourselves into situations where folks are out here taking advantage of us, where we’re not showing our genuine selves because we’re so focused on walking on eggshells or “going along to get along” and/or we end up in situations where people literally mistake our kindness for weakness (le sigh).
On the other hand, being kind is all about being gentle, helpful, considerate, friendly, and not harmful to other individuals. Here’s the thing, though — when you’re kind, it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your own boundaries, needs, or feelings. You can gently set a boundary. You can help someone without it always being at the expense of yourself (meaning, you can do it when you have the time, energy, and resources). You can feel good about knowing that any grown person (family or otherwise) who tells you that taking care of you should not be as important as taking care of them is a form of gaslighting — that you aren’t harming someone simply because you won’t do whatever it is that they think that you should.
I’m telling you, when it comes to getting on the path of self-compassion, it is a real game-changer to know the differences between being nice and being kind. Try it and I’m pretty confident that you’ll see just what I am talkin’ about.
12. Toast Yourself Every Day
There really is no telling, just how many articles I’ve written (even on this platform) where I mention that I make it a point and practice toasting myself on a daily basis. Why? Well, even though I’m pretty sure that everyone reading this has been a part of a formal toast before, I’m not sure how many of y’all have actually sat and thought about what a toast represents. It’s a way of wishing someone future success, happiness, and health; it can also be a way of celebrating someone’s accomplishments.
Listen, at the time that I’m actually penning this, it’s not even noon yet and I already know that I’m gonna toast myself later because I didn’t straight up cuss out someone who’s been trying me for the past couple of weeks — and yes, that is worth celebrating, chile!
The reality is that a lot of people stay in the cycle of self-induced suffering and it’s because all they think about is their weaknesses and/or shortcomings and/or mistakes and/or all of the things that they need to do that they haven’t done (which can induce stress, overthinking and feeling completely overwhelmed). Toasting yourself reminds you that although you have a ways to go, you’ve also come a long way too — one step at a time.
So, as we bring this finally to a close, determine that tonight, you’re gonna pull out a flute, pour yourself some bubbly (even if it’s sparkling cider), and verbally toast yourself for some sort of reached goal or internal triumph. It’s another way to extend yourself some compassion — in a way that you probably never thought you deserved or even needed before. Salute, sis. SALUTE.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
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