What is self-compassion and why do you need it?
Self-compassion is about acknowledging your human heart. We often think of ourselves, and treat ourselves, like a machine. We push, we ignore our pain, our desires and we persevere through hardships. Sometimes this is necessary, but often it is not.
Instead of treating yourself as an aside, self-compassion is about looking at yourself as you would another who was suffering. Be moved by your own pain, foster the desire to care for yourself and treat yourself with kindness. Understand you are not required to be perfect and that all humans make mistakes.
Believe it or not, self-compassion helps with building personal resilience. If you self-criticize often, you will be run down. You will be afraid to take risks, afraid of failing. Your own harshness will keep you from reaching your full potential.
However, if you treat yourself with compassion and acknowledge that failure does not mean defeat or worthlessness, you become resilient. You know you will accomplish your goals, even if it takes a few tries. Self-compassion is key to building personal resilience.
“When we have self-compassion, we are less likely to depend on others to validate our self-worth.” – Allison Abrams, LCSW-R
There are many different ways to work on that. Here’s an easy exercise:
Practice this in non-stressful moments by recalling something you dealt with that day which caused you stress.
- Acknowledge to yourself that you are in a difficult time. This is mindfulness. Say things like:
- This is a second of suffering.
- I am hurting.
- I feel stressed.
- Acknowledge your humanity. Say things to yourself such as:
- Pain is part of being alive.
- I’m not the only one hurting.
- Everybody has moments of suffering.
- Comfort yourself with a soothing touch. This could be running your hands through your hair, rubbing your arms, or any other gentle movement that comforts you. The important thing is to do this yourself.
- Ask yourself what could be said right now to make you feel better. Think about what you would want a friend to say, then say that to yourself. Here are some examples:
- I will treat myself gently.
- I can accept who I am.
- I can forgive my imperfections.
- I am strong.
- I will be patient.
You can do this anytime; it only takes a moment inside your head. This will help in building personal resilience and treating yourself with compassion when you need it.
“ This research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” – Kristen Neff, Ph.D.
Another thing you can do is write yourself a letter. You remember doing this as a child, or when you started high school? It is sometimes facilitated in schools.
Write about things you love about yourself. Mention hardships you’ve survived, obstacles you’ve overcome. Write to yourself as you were writing to a friend who told you that they were unable to love themselves.
You can find many similar exercises here.
Psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff was the first to functionally define self-compassion and study its effects. She has several guided meditations available on her website here.
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