Self-Compassion, What is it Exactly?
Self-compassion is something we so commonly overlook but is so critical to our overall mental health and well-being. In my lifetime, I have met so many individuals who are compelled to show up and offer compassion to others in a time of need with deep understanding and kindness. We feel compelled to remind others that challenges, failure and imperfection are all part of the shared human experience and remind them this is not a defining label of who they are or how others see them. However, are we showing up for ourselves in the same way? The short answer is often no. Many of us live by this double standard that other people are worthy of compassion but not ourselves. I have found that our own inner critic can be a large source of what makes us live by this double standard. This inner critic is the voice in all of our heads reminding us of all the things we do not like about ourselves, past failures and greatest mistakes. It is that voice that tells us we are not worthy or deserving of self-compassion.
The purpose of this blog is to encourage practicing self-compassion. Although having self-compassion is not something we all inherently practice, it is something that we all deserve! Kristin Neff, the world leading expert on self-compassion, states, "self-compassion is our birth right." We are all born with the right to give kindness and understanding to ourselves when confronted with personal shortcomings. From my experience, the more an individual learns to fully accept themselves (imperfections and all), the more willing they become to opening their hearts to feel compassion for themselves and others.
In this blog I will discuss common myths about what self-compassion is. I will also explore the benefits to practicing self-compassion and ways to implement it into our daily lives.
Self-compassion is not feeling sorry for ourselves. When we face difficult times, many of us can get wrapped up in our own emotional distress and believe we are the only person(s) in the world suffering. We tend to forget the shared reality that others have similar problems. Although we may feel disconnected and isolated from others, self-compassion reminds us that we are all interconnected to the shared human experience.
Self-compassion is not letting ourselves off the hook. Listening to our inner critic can cause us to use criticism, judgement, punishment, and unrealistic expectations as a way of responding to life’s challenges. Feeling compassion towards ourselves, means taking personal accountability in situations and using that experience as a way to learn and change for the future. It is communicating to ourselves in a way that is caring, honest, direct and encouraging.
Self-compassion is not being able to check all of the boxes. We live in a culture that can measure our worth by how many boxes we are able to check (e.g. the need to be above average, living up to the status quo, and possess personal traits such as being successful, smart, pretty, etc.). We are all worthy of kindness, respect and support to ourselves, despite any shortcomings that we may feel.
There are many benefits to practicing self-compassion. Research has shown that people who practice self-compassion, experience feelings of greater happiness, feeling less stressed and are more equip to experience resiliency. When we are happier, we are able to view life with more optimism and gratitude, as well as feeling more connected within our relationships. When we are able to lower the voice of our inner critic and speak to ourselves from a place of compassion, we can reduce feeling stressed, anxious or even shame. When we are able to accept the shared reality that we are all imperfect and prone to making mistakes, we become better equipped to learn and move forward.
3 ways to practice self-compassion on a daily basis:
1. Observe when the inner critic is speaking. When we notice our inner critic starting to speak up, we can ask ourselves, “how would I treat someone that I care about in this situation?” This prevents us from communicating criticism and judgment to
2. Utilize self-compassion statements when you just can’t find the words to quiet our inner critic.
“These feelings are part of the human experience.”
“I am learning to accept myself as I am.”
“I am worthy of compassion.”
“Like any human being, I have strengths and weaknesses and that is okay.”
“I allow myself to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.”
3. Laugh more. We all have those awkward moments where we may say or do something that feels very embarrassing. It is in those moments, that we must remember to not always take ourselves so seriously.
Remember, self-compassion is our birth right. We are worthy of giving ourselves the same compassion that we show to others. As we begin to practice self-compassion, it may feel uncomfortable. That is because we are stepping outside of our comfort zone. Self-compassion is not for the weak. Self-compassion requires the courage to practice communicating to ourselves from a place of kindness and respect, despite the discomfort we may feel.
If this topic has sparked your interest I encourage you to visit Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, self-compassion.org for additional information.
By: Marie Clifton