Tell your children that they will sometimes fail. That one day they will face a harrowing decision and they will choose wrong, and that bad choice — which at the time may seem like the only good possibility — will cause them pain and struggle and suffering that doing the other thing might not have caused.
Tell your children that sometimes they will make all the right choices, and they will give 100 percent of everything, the best they have, and that they still will not achieve the thing they set out to achieve.
Tell your children that when they fail or when they fear failing, that is not who they are, but it’s the moment they inhabit — a thing that has happened or is happening. And the pain is not who they are either. Pain is a feeling that will pass and return and pass again. And again. And again.
Tell your children that they will sometimes have successes beyond anything they can imagine in places they never intended to go. And that those successes are no more who they are than their failings. And they will feel great joy. And that joy, too, is a feeling that will pass and return and pass again. And again. And Again.
Tell your children that these truths belong to all of us.
The successes, the failures, the pain, all of it. Every single human who walks or has walked or will walk this earth struggles and suffers and sings out with joy. There is no other way.
Encourage your children to feel all these things, recognize what they are feeling and then let the feelings go.
Encourage your children to have compassion for themselves not only because current research supports what the Buddhist have practiced for thousands of years — being kind to yourself builds resilience, empathy and ultimately a kind of deeper equilibrium — but simply because they are worthy of their own kindness.
Encourage your children to talk back to the voice in their heads that says things about them that they would never say to a friend. I want them to tell those voices to shut up and replace them with the words, “It’s OK, I am OK, we are all OK.”
This is how you build self-compassion. Slowly. Continuously. Patiently.
And when you fail to have compassion for yourself, you forgive yourself for that failing, too.
You have succeeded at being a human.