What is self-compassion and why is it so important?
We keep hearing about this thing called self-compassion, but what is it? Isn’t it just being lazy or being ‘too easy’ on yourself? That is actually the exact opposite of what self-compassion is. We are able to approach ourselves with kindness while also acknowledging our faults. We learn to forgive ourselves for those faults and learning to work with our own abilities in a healthy way.
What is self-compassion and what role does it play in our lives?
Let’s start by talking about what self-compassion is! It is about being understanding and kind to ourselves when we are feeling insecure, inadequate, or when various feelings are coming up that are uncomfortable (both physical and emotional). When we are self-compassionate, we are able to recognize that we are imperfect and realize that challenges in life are inevitable.
Self-compassion is NOT about self-criticism! The way that we talk to ourselves plays a very large role in our wellbeing and our ability to recover from failings and move forward into success. What role does self-compassion play in our lives and how do we overcome that chronic critical thought process in order to gain a deeper sense of self-acceptance?
We have learned to hide our shortcomings to try to maintain some level of a positive self-image. When we are working to build self-compassion, we actually work to increase our knowledge and awareness of our own limitations. That might sound really scary because we don’t want to end in a downward spiral! However, self-compassion when done effectively has been proven to have a positive correlation with improved mental health and greater life satisfaction. Many people who have worked to strengthen their self-compassion have reported lower levels of anxiety and depression.
How do we start to build up your self-compassion?
Often there are barriers that get in the way of wanting to work on our self-compassion and that includes feeling like it might not make a difference. We start to think, why bother if it might not really help? Also, by addressing our shortcomings and being authentic, not only with others but also ourselves, we start to become more vulnerable and that can be scary leading to fears that it might even make our suffering worse. Self-compassion is hard; we are not used to feeling that sense of compassion toward ourselves and it can feel really weird at first.
With all of this in mind, how do you get started with self-compassion?
Step 1: Forgiveness
To start this process, you have to stop punishing yourself for your mistakes! You are not perfect, nor should you be. Be gentle when you are recognizing your shortcomings. You do not need to be a certain way or meet a certain expectation to be worthy of love. A way to allow yourself to remember this can be to write a note to yourself and keep it close to you (in your wallet, on your desk, on your mirror, etc…)
Step 2: Focus on growth
Instead of avoiding challenges, push through to find meaning in those experiences and don’t give up on yourself. Rather than comparing yourself to others in times that are tough, try to find motivation and inspiration through their success and strengths rather than seeing it as a threat to your own success.
Step 3: Gratitude
It can be easy especially in the world of social media to see what we do not have versus what we do have. Gratitude is a powerful tool that we have and there is strength in appreciating what we do have rather than what we don’t. Writing a gratitude journal can be helpful to reflect back on in those difficult moments as well. Take a walk and focus on your blessings and skills you can use to help yourself succeed.
Step 4: Mindfulness
One of the skills with mindfulness is a nonjudgemental approach. This is not only helpful for our relationship with others, but also with ourselves. Building up mindfulness skills can allow us to lessen our own self-judgement. Work to focus on the moment and be aware of what is happening around you and for you each moment without needing to judge or label anything. We don’t need to amplify what we think or feel but we also don’t need to hide it either; we want to allow it to come and, without attachment, let it go.
Step 5: Treat yourself like a friend
One of the best and simplest exercises to do when trying to build self-compassion is to treat yourself like you would a loved one. If you wouldn’t say those nasty things to a friend, why would you say them to yourself? We need to treat others as we would like to be treated, but we also need to treat ourselves the way that we would treat anyone else also.
Step 6: Seek extra support
As mentioned before, self-compassion is hard! It is incredibly difficult especially when you are trying to navigate it on your own. These are most likely skills that you have never used before and taking it on yourself without extra support doesn’t leave you the best chances to be successful. Reach out for therapy or coaching to assist you as well. There are therapy directories such as Psychology Today or Mental Health Match to assist in finding a therapist or you can reach out directly to me for a free 30 minute consultation!