From a young age, most of us are taught how to be kind, considerate, and compassionate toward others. But rarely are we told to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in hyper-critical or neglectful homes.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love.
But what does it really mean to be kind with ourselves?
- Self-compassion is a discipline (especially if it doesn’t come naturally). It requires daily efforts to mindfully notice moments when we are being overly judgmental or harsh and saying “STOP!”
- It requires showing the self the same amount of courteous respect that we might give other people. For example, you wouldn’t call other people “a failure;” it might be too harsh to use that language on yourself.
- Self-compassion requires the use of empathy skills. This assumes you can 1) Name what you are feeling; and 2) Describe the good and valid reason this feeling is happening.
Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us see ourselves more clearly and neutrally. It allows us to maintain a healthy self-esteem, recognizing that though we may sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people.
Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self-care and psychological well-being. Those who practice self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.
Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.
How to Practice Self-Compassion
Treat Yourself as You Would a Small Child
You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child the way you do yourself. You would only want to help and love that child. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.
Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.
Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.
When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.
Good Will vs Good Feelings
Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.
These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with us. We have therapists on our team that might be able to help.