Recipe for Compassion in 3 ingredients

“It’s in my highest good to see the truth regardless of my temporary discomfort.”

Much like the post I wrote on gratitude when you’re not feeling grateful, I think there’s a lot to be said about self-compassion, when you’re not feeling compassionate. This week, I spoke about the Power of Self-Compassion when learning Finnish in Finland at an event in Helsinki – so compassion has been on my mind a lot in preparing for this talk, but also after…

The #1 reason people stall while learning Finnish IMO

compassion turtle canva 300x200 pxI believe one of the reason this talk appealed so many is because deep down, we know we are super hard on ourselves – too hard for our own good. So many of us have been conditioned to honour the inner-critic and persevere towards perfection at the expense of progress. I’ve met learners who are so terrified of making mistakes, they’d rather not speak at all (this is actually extremely common). Most Finnish learners, I believe, get stuck at some point on the language learning journey – not because of their ability – because of  extremely rigid expectations of perfection. If I had to go out on a limb and pin-point the #1 demotivator in learning Finnish, I’d argue that it’s people being too hard on themselves.

Remember that time we were kids and learning was fun? Thank God we didn’t take learning how to walk as seriously as learning Finnish. Could you imagine what would’ve happened? Stand up, fall over. Stand up, take a step, fall over… and NEVER TRY AGAIN! What!? It’s such an ironic thought it makes me smile every time. The little versions of us had stuff figured out, yo!

The Simple Recipe for Compassion

Compassion allows us to take things lightly. It leaves room for play and allowing our natural abilities to bubble up to the surface effortlessly. We are wired for language, after all! Once you recognize the importance of compassion (hey, awareness is half the battle) then it’s a matter of actually putting it to use when you need it. But how?

What can we do when we recognize we need more self-compassion in the moment? I’ve boiled it down to 3 ingredients:

500g Acknowledgement of the present challenge and the emotions it gives rise to

750ml Acceptance of what has been done or said and what is needed

3 tablespoons of curiosity

Blend and serve.


Compassion in practice: an example

I’ll use a running example to paint a more vivid picture. Say I’m struggling to speak Finnish: I’ve been to courses, I use basic phrases but anything I don’t understand makes me really uncomfortable and I switch to English (or the person I’m talking to switches). I’ve been in this situation for a few years now and I am so frustrated and angry at myself and at others in these situations that I feel completely at a loss for what to do. How hard can this possibly be?! Why is it that I can’t seem to do this: am I not smart enough? Am I doing it all wrong? Am I too lazy… on and on it goes until I realize: this is one of those opportunities for compassion… what were those 3 ingredients again?

500g acknowledgement

Ok – where was I? I’m supposed to acknowledge the situation: I’m not as far along as I’d like in speaking Finnish and feeling independent in the country where I live. This gives rise to stress, self-criticism, frustration and anger. I sometimes deny these emotions because I don’t want them to swallow me up! And yet the more I push them down, the worse I tend to feel.

I bet other people are feeling stressed, critical, frustrated and angry. It is not pleasant but it is human. What if I try allowing these emotions for a bit and seeing what they’re trying to tell me…

750ml acceptance

Who hasn’t struggled with accepting something that is less than ideal? Sigh…

Can I accept that this is how I feel and where I am? Well I put a lot of work in and I’m not seeing the progress I want. I see why I feel this way. It’s not irrational, I think other people who feel the same way under these circumstances.

Maybe I was being unrealistic, or maybe I’m missing something here…

Can I accept that I haven’t made progress even though I’ve put a lot of effort in? Well I haven’t met my expectations and this stings. This feels very uncomfortable. I put all this work in because I felt a strong need to belong, to feel confident, independent and capable. Can I accept that I still have these needs and the current situation has not met my expectations?

Can I accept that maybe this frustration and not learning is where I’m meant to be right now? I sure hope so because I need to feel motivated to keep doing something so doing something without seeing any results makes me not want to do it anymore. Maybe this is the point! Maybe there’s a better way!

3 tablespoons of curiosity

Now it’s time to draw on the playfulness of curiosity: how can I move forward from here, assuming I don’t really know how things will play out. I don’t want to keep doing things that are boring or don’t appeal to me. What if I can make the process of learning fun so I can actually keep going? What if I can be kind to myself in the process and still see progress? I know I’m capable and I’ve overcome lots of challenges in my life, what if this is no different? What if I’m actually meant to have stalled so that I could find a better way?

Now take a step back and resist the need to fix the whole thing. Ask yourself questions and play around with different answers. Pay attention to how the answers make you feel: expansive or contractive? Let kindness lead the way…

And before you know it, you’ll be whipping up self-compassion like a pro!

Want to explore how learning Finnish can look with a self-compassionate approach? Send me a message for more info. I believe learning Finnish is your birthright (I really do!) and that there is a better way to go about it than so many of us have been taught. Click here to message me.

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Hi! I’m Irina.

I’m a multibelonger to Finland, Canada and Romania, without ONE language or culture to call my own – I have several. My intention is to be present where I am and find inner peace and harmony where ever life takes me. I’m embracing the gems of the ongoing cultural and linguistic transition which is my life and hope to inspire others interested in doing the same. Click here to find out more!