We always hear and talk about self-esteem and how it’s important for us to build up our self-esteem in order to live happy, meaningful lives. However; self-esteem has its limits, and it’s hard for many to have that “buy-in” when it comes to believing positive things about ourselves.
Self-compassion is a deeper level of self-acceptance, an ability to allow yourself to be vulnerable and express who you truly are. Self-compassion is about building the skills and awareness to be your own best friend, regardless of where you are in your life or what you’re going through.
Michele McDonald developed the RAIN tool around 20 years ago in order to build mindfulness. Throughout time, it was adapted to address self-compassion. This tool is easy-to-use tool and can be used any time, in any situation. It helps to increase self-awareness and mindfulness that you can use to be more gentle with yourself, especially when you are feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions.
What are you feeling? What is going on in your body? What thoughts are going through your mind? The first step of RAIN involves conscious acknowledgement of what is happening in our minds and bodies. Are you having self-critical thoughts? Does your body feel tense or uncomfortable? Take this time to reflect on and simply recognize what your inner voice is saying.
Typically, when we find ourselves experiencing unpleasant emotions or having self-critical thoughts, we tend to compound the problem by immediately placing judgment on those thoughts or feelings – thinking things such as, “what is wrong with me?”, “why can’t I just be normal?”, or “wow, I really handled that poorly.”Allowing means letting the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations we have recognized simply be there. You do not judge them, but rather allow them to be with you during this time.
Investigating your inner world and experience involves asking yourself, “What does this feeling want from me?, “What do I need right now?”, and “What are these thoughts really trying to tell me?” These questions again come from a place of non-judgment, a place where you can mindfully reflect on the true intentions of these intense thoughts and feelings. Investigating allows you to notice patterns, or times when you reacted similarly, and encourages you to find new ways of coping.
The first three steps of RAIN require intentional activity that ultimately leads to self-awareness. In this final step, all that is required of you is to sit in the new perspective you have gained, be mindful of your surroundings, and nurture yourself. You are not your feelings, you are not your thoughts. You are simply a human being who deserves love and are enough.
This method is the most useful when you are feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. By working through these steps and becoming more familiar with yourself, you are building mindful self-compassion and re-conditioning your mind to be more kind to yourself. As Viktor Frankl famously said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in this space lies our power and our freedom.” By taking a step back and decreasing our reactivity, we are able to address situations in a healthier way, and understand ourselves at a much deeper level.
Inspired by the book Radical Compassion by Tara Brach