How often do you practice self-compassion?
Self-compassion defined: An attitude that involves treating oneself with warmth and understanding in difficult times and recognizing that making mistakes is a part of being human.
In my 37 years of life, I have come across a LOT of people who do some serious self-bashing. I know people who are incredibly hard on themselves by engaging in negative self-talk, shaming, and criticism. At the same time, those same people are some of the kindest, most giving and sincere people I know. The truly would give the shirts off their back to someone in need.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why is it easy to show others kindness and compassion but not ourselves?
Sometimes people believe that being kind to ourselves means being selfish or self-centered. Some people believe that they are, in fact, living a better life by being self-critical as it’s a way to guilt or shame themselves into achieving a goal or improving an aspect of their life. But it’s actually the opposite! When we are hard on ourselves, studies have show that those actions can lead to failure, depression or even anxiety! When we are self-critical, we lose faith in ourselves and our abilities. When we talk down to ourselves or hold onto a negative self-image, we begin to actually believe and live those thoughts instead of changing them.
Showing yourself compassion and kindness through practicing positive self-talk, demonstrating habits of self-kindness and granting yourself grace in times of struggle or difficulty allows us to experience life with an open heart and a tolerance that helps us to be open to enjoying successes and the progress towards those successes. It also leads better management of mistakes or setbacks when they arise. When we look at and appreciate life as a developmental experience, (to evolve or unfold gradually), instead of a battle we need to “survive”, we are able to show ourselves self-compassion and sympathy, which ultimately strengthens our coping skills and resilience (the ability to bounce-back under adversity). When we notice things about ourselves that we want to change, we do so, not because we think we’re inadequate, or sub-par, but because we love and honor ourselves.
According to Kristin Neff, Ph.D., associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin, self-compassion has three main parts (from her website on self-compassion):
- Self-kindness: Being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself when you’re suffering, instead of ignoring or criticizing the reasons why we are suffering.
- Common humanity: Realizing that you’re not alone in your struggles. When we’re struggling, we tend to feel especially isolated. We think we’re the only ones to experience loss, make mistakes, feel rejected or fail. But it’s these very struggles that are part of our shared experience as humans.
- Mindfulness: Observing life as it is, without being judgmental or suppressing your thoughts and feelings.
So how DO we show ourselves compassion? Here are 26 ways to start.