Self-compassion & the importance of self-care. (SE Asia School Counselling Conference 2018.)

An holds a unique piece of hand crafted pottery in her hands. It depicts a woman kneeling and as she explains is has only had a base coat of paint on it; it is ready for the detail – the rest of the story to be added. Four women, she explains, were involved in the process of making the piece and how her heart breaks when sometimes they pop pop pop and crack in the kiln. Sometimes only half of the clay figurines survive. She talks of the sadness and tears that happen when a piece explodes in the firey kiln, or the door is opened too soon and they crack apart rendering all their hard work for nothing.

Then she raises her arm and smashes it against the floor. The clay woman shatters. A audible gasp briefly fills the room followed by an violent, oppressive silence. Tears start streaming down my face.

She thanks us for our compassion & for now truly understanding how she feels when she loses a piece. I’m not sure exactly how I feel, I just know the tears are hard to stop. All that work for her to smash it seems unfair to the women who worked to make it. I feel for the clay woman who lies in pieces on the floor & acknowledge the tears stem from knowing that I’ve felt that shattered and broken before.

We all have a story

There’s a word in Marshallese that I’ve been considering getting tattoed somewhere for a couple of years – bwebwenato – which basically means storytelling. Ri-bwebwenato means ‘story-teller’ – those elders who passed down stories from generation to generation.

As counsellors we are the Keepers of Stories. People entrust us with stories which are painful, humiliating, sorrowful and very personal. Also amongst these they may find joy, humour & meaning. We tell our clients they have a story which has meaning & is worthy of been listened to. Do we tell this to ourselves? Do we listen to our own pain, hurt & suffering? Do we reach out & care for ourselves when we are hurting, embarrassed, shamed? Do we treat ourselves in the same way we treat others?

If the answer is no. You treat your friends with compassion but not yourself ask yourself why not? Do you call yourself names out loud or berate yourself when you mess up? Then stop. Be as kind to yourself as you would your best friend.

YOU have a story.

YOUR story means something.

YOU are worth listening to.

Practise some self compassion.

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Counsellor and Training Specialist supporting Globally Mobile Populations and International Schools.

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