Do you ever catch yourself criticizing your every move? Do you struggle catering to your own needs, even though you care about anyone else’s? Are you empathetic towards everyone on the planet but yourself? If these sound like you, perhaps you are not sufficiently self-compassionate.
Culture and society have evolved so that people learn to care about everyone but themselves. Instead of self-compassion, caring for your own needs used to be considered vanity and selfishness. In the last couple of decades, things have slowly started to change. But most adults still have the scars from being raised with the wrong ideas about self-care. If you don’t know how to implement self-compassion, don’t worry! You can always learn how to show yourself the same kindness you show others.
WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?
Self-compassion is a newer area of research. It is part of the positive psychology branch that encourages individual empowerment. The most prominent figure to study self-compassion is Dr. Kristin Neff.
According to her studies, having self-compassion is, in theory, just like having compassion the others. It comprises the same principles and mechanisms but is pointed inwards rather than outwards. It means being able to relate to yourself and to have a forgiving and accepting approach.
Self-compassion is similar to self-love, but it focuses on not beating yourself up when situations aren’t optimal. It is different from self-esteem in the sense that compassion does not tie back to feeling pride.
Dr. Neff has separated the concept of self-compassion into three branches:
This branch is about showing kindness and understanding towards yourself. This is especially important when you fail at something or when you feel hurt. Rather than being critical, you have to acknowledge the negative aspects of self-judgment. Instead, be patient and calm.
· HAVING COMMON HUMANITY
This stems from the principle of being part of something bigger. It means viewing individual experiences as part of the broader human experience. Rather than isolating yourself from others, you view yourself as part of a group.
· MINDFULNESS CAN BE SELF-COMPASSIONATE
This concept opposes avoidance, especially the avoidance of your thoughts and feelings. It means acknowledging your thoughts rather than purely reacting to them.
This breakdown seems pretty straightforward. You probably practice kindness and humanity every day. But the issue is that you don’t practice them on yourself. Most people have been wired to beat themselves up over every minor mistake. This stems from a perception that being self-critical will make you a better person. That harshness will motivate you to overcome your condition. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
Just as you wouldn’t yell at a child who fell and scraped their knee, you shouldn’t punish yourself for being imperfect. People need to be motivated by positive factors, not by fear. Self-compassion will help you change from the inside. It will allow you to reach higher mental well-being, which will help you overcome the hurdles in your path.
Self-compassion correlates with less anxiety, shame, and fear of failure. According to Dr. Ravi Shah, it’s critical for healthy self-esteem and resilience. It also makes you less susceptible to abuse. If you’re kind to yourself, you will not accept toxic behaviors from others.
3 WAYS TO BE MORE SELF-COMPASSIONATE
So, if self-compassion is desirable, how can you learn to practice it?
1. PRACTICE FORGIVENESS TO BECOME SELF-COMPASSIONATE
People often feel like the only way to take responsibility for their actions is to punish themselves if they fail. What this principle doesn’t take into account is that human nature is imperfect and susceptible to failure. Moreover, accountability doesn’t mean punishing yourself for the past but rather working towards becoming better in the future.
If you’ve failed, punishment will solve nothing. It will only hurt you. Instead, forgiveness will allow you to move on. You have to let yourself be imperfect, to make mistakes. You have to accept the fact that, sometimes, you will be unproductive, that you will have days where you just lay on the couch watching TV. And that’s ok.
Forcing yourself to be as close to perfection as possible will lead to burnout. It will stress you out, overburden you, and make you underperform. But allowing yourself a break from time to time will balance things out. Taking a day off to focus on your mental well-being will make you feel more energized and ready to take on the world. Acknowledge that you need to do things in your way and at your own pace.
The only way to achieve this is to consciously remind yourself you forgive your mistakes until you’ve created a reflex. You have to work towards shifting your behavior proactively. Make a mental note to stop using derogatory terms when referring to yourself. Stop insulting yourself for the smallest of mistakes. Change your language and try more positive ways to address yourself.
Psychotherapist Kristen Martinez uses the metaphor of a “permission slip.” The idea behind it is that you permit yourself to make mistakes. If you feel like you want to get angry with yourself because of a failure, remember that you gave yourself a permission slip. And you can’t be mean to someone with permission, right?
2. HAVE A GROWTH MINDSET
Not being self-compassionate is especially damaging because it doesn’t allow you to strive towards growth. Being judgmental will only tear you down and stress you out unnecessarily. If you want to make sure you avoid failure, you should concentrate on growing. This will allow self-compassion, and it will make your life better overall.
The first step in achieving growth is learning to set reasonable goals and targets. Also, remember to break down tasks and goals into smaller steps. That way, you will be able to take smaller steps and have a concrete plan. Understand that you can grow only when moving on from failures and pushing onwards. If you get stuck in place because your judgment demotivates you, you will get nowhere. You will only lose time if you dwell on the past. Always focus on the future. If you fail, ask yourself what you can do to make things better from thereon.
Besides the pragmatic aspects, learn to practice self-kindness. Recognize that everyone is imperfect. When you fail, your first instinct might be to think, “I shouldn’t struggle. Everyone else is so happy, and I’m here hitting walls!”. But that’s not the case. Everyone has made mistakes in life. The sooner you acknowledge that, the sooner you will understand that you deserve just as much kindness as others do. With self-kindness, you will think, “everyone sometimes struggles, so it’s fine if I do too.”
To allow growth, remember you are not alone. You are dealing with normal human experiences that everyone encounters at some point. The people who have their life together are the ones who have learned that the possibility of growth is worth more than a punishment. They are the ones who practice self-compassionate behaviors, so try to emulate that in your daily life.
3. BE MINDFUL TO BECOME MORE SELF-COMPASSIONATE
Being mindful is all about looking inward and accepting who you are. It’s about being in touch with your feelings and accepting them rather than being reactionary.
People tend to be compassionate towards others because they empathize with them. That’s because they understand how others feel and how they’re hurting. If that’s the trick to being compassionate towards others, why not do that towards yourself? Get in tune with your feelings and try to empathize with them.
The best way to do that is by letting your mind wander. Take some time to think. Reflect on your day. How did certain moments make you feel? How do you think about the goals you have in place? If you feel like you can’t relax enough to let your thoughts flow freely, try meditation. Specific breathing techniques associated with meditation will allow you to be entirely submerged by thoughts.
The more you think about your feelings, the more in tune with yourself you will be. Understanding how your brain is wired allows you to learn how to handle your emotions. It will help you be kinder to yourself, thus putting you on the right path towards self-compassion.
Mindfulness has also links to authenticity, to being true to yourself. It can help you understand your values and principles, thus allowing you to do things that fit your wants and needs. More authentic people are also more motivated. This drive can help you enforce your growth mindset.
Mindfulness encompasses all the critical points of self-compassionate behavior. It can help you be kinder to yourself. It can put you on the right path to self-growth. And it can make you feel connected to your inner self, your emotions, and your thoughts.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SELF-COMPASSIONATE AND HOW TO DO IT RIGHT
Self-compassion is a necessary trait to ensure mental well-being. The problem is, most people don’t understand what it means and how to do it right. Most people were thought that self-compassion is selfish. That’s just self-pity, and only weak people engage in things like that. But that couldn’t be more of a lie. If that’s your perception, try to understand that it’s wrong. Self-compassion is about being kind to yourself and striving towards growth. The people who learn how to practice self-compassion will be better suited to take on the hardships of the world.
Self-compassion comprises three main branches: self-kindness, having common humanity, and mindfulness. To learn to be self-compassionate, you have to work on all three fronts—practice self-kindness by practicing forgiveness, consciously changing your vocabulary. Use more nice words when talking about yourself. Give yourself a pass to make mistakes and understand imperfection is human.
Have common humanity by understanding that everyone struggles and the future is more important than the past. In that regard, have a growth mindset. Don’t dwell on what could have been. Instead, create a plan targeted towards making things better in the future. Lastly, learn to be mindful by looking inwards, meditating, and letting your mind wander.
Strive towards creating a connection with your thoughts and feelings. Understand where your emotions come from and how to manage them. Be authentic, true to yourself, and work to fulfill your needs.
You wouldn’t yell at your kid for a small mistake. So, why would it make sense to be mean to yourself in those situations? Whatever kindness you would show others, remember, you are entitled to showing yourself that same kindness! Be self-compassionate!