What is self-compassion?
There are many emotional and psychological benefits to practicing self-compassion, but it can be tough to know where to start. Let’s explore what self-compassion actually means, the benefits it can bring to your life, and how to try it.
Kindness Towards Yourself
Self-compassion is kindness towards yourself that you don’t have to earn. It’s different from self-esteem (which might come from a sense of pride in your accomplishments or personal attributes).
Rather than focusing on what positive qualities may set you apart, self-compassion taps into some universal human truths: that we all experience pain and suffering at one time or another, and that all humans need compassion and understanding.
Something To Try
It’s something to try in moments where you fall short or feel like a failure — in other words, times when it’s easy to blame yourself. Many people instinctively criticize themselves when they make a mistake, thinking that beating themselves up will drive them to do better next time. Instead, a self-compassionate response would look like offering yourself some comfort and support in those low moments.
An Action and A Practice
It’s an action and a practice, which means it’s not just something you have or don’t have. Like any other new habit, treating yourself more compassionately might feel strange at first, but will start to feel more natural the more you try it.
Benefits of Practicing Self-Compassion:
There are plenty of reasons to add some self-compassion to your life. Some of these include:
Increased motivation to pursue your goals. It turns out that harshly judging yourself for your mistakes isn’t super helpful for increasing your productivity.
It may seem counterintuitive, but don’t mistake self-compassion for self-pity or wallowing. Being kind to yourself when you’re struggling can inspire you to make positive changes in your life out of a desire to honor your full potential, instead of coming at it from a place of needing to fix something bad about yourself.
More Confidence, Less Fear of Failure
Think about it: if you start offering yourself compassion whenever you experience a setback instead of letting your inner critic tell you that you’re a garbage person, then failure will start to look a little less scary.
With practice, you’ll be more inclined to try new things and take healthy risks. And as a bonus, failing more means learning and growing more, too.
Greater resilience in the face of life’s ups and downs. Your practice of self-compassion can help you weather all kinds of challenges, from family stress and health struggles to big life changes and professional ups and downs. Research has shown that self-compassion can help lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Tips for Getting Started:
Follow the “Reverse Golden Rule”
As a kid, maybe you learned how to get along with others by following the “golden rule” (ie, “treat others how you would like to be treated”). Flipping that rule on its head sums up the essence of self-compassion: “treat yourself with the same kindness you show others.” It seems simple, but many of us say mean things to ourselves when we make mistakes — even though we would never dream of saying the same things to a friend in our position.
So one way to start flexing this compassionate muscle is to pause whenever you’re feeling down on yourself. Ask: “would I speak to a friend this way?” And if the answer is no, what would you say to a friend in your position? How would you offer them comfort and support? See how it feels to turn that nurturing presence towards yourself.
Utilize Available Self-Compassion Resources
Explore the many self-compassion resources and exercises out there, and see if the added structure helps you find your kind inner voice. You can try writing yourself a compassionate letter or move through the RAIN exercise, and see what works for you.
A Reminder: Be Prepared for Intense Emotions
Don’t be surprised if the experience is intense — and don’t expect your pain to disappear. There are a lot of benefits that come with this practice, but being compassionate to yourself won’t solve all your problems.
And if you’ve been doing your best to ignore negative feelings, being compassionate to yourself can invite those tough emotions right to the surface. It might feel intense, but allowing yourself to really feel what you’re feeling without judgment can help you break the cycle of kicking yourself when you’re down.
Practice Self-Compassion Before You’re in a Moment of Crisis
The more you can be compassionate with yourself when you’re doing relatively well, the easier it’ll be to reach for those skills when you need them most. Don’t wait until you feel really down in the dumps — start small, like being compassionate with yourself if you snooze your alarm one too many times.
With time and a little practice, you can learn to guide your inner monologue towards kindness and reap the benefits of self-compassion.
Therapy can help you overcome these challenges. Contact us for a free consultation today.
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