How to Practice Self-Compassion
Most of us from a young age 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 abusive or unloving homes.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and 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? It means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.
Why is this important? Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize though we my sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people. Furthermore, the ability to practice self-compassion facilitates acceptance of our feelings, versus using (often unhealthy) control strategies to avoid these human experiences.
Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly 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 stories and narratives running in our minds 24/7. These stories and narratives are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions. Our minds are fantastic at creating these stories and narratives to drive our feelings and behaviors, ultimately in an attempt to help us survive and reproduce. For example, our brains are great at creating stories about what might go wrong, or how we aren’t good enough, in an effort to drive us to avoid danger and change behavior, so that stay safe and be accepted in our groups. These stories, feelings, and behaviors have evolved in this way to help us survive and reproduce. They are our “cave person minds”.
Some of these stories 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 narratives 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 “cave person mind” If it’s the “cave person mind”, thank the “cave person mind” for what it has done and bring your attention back to what is important in this moment.
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 me. I’d be happy to discuss how Acceptance and Commitment Therapy may help.