|Whether we wish to admit it or not, we can all be pretty tough on ourselves. It might be because we're trying to land a big promotion at work, or maybe we're working hard to get recognition or understanding from someone who really matters to us. This over-reliance on self-criticism may even stem from something that happened a long time ago that has now become a defense mechanism to hide wounds that have never fully healed. Feelings of guilt, shame or even self-hatred can be very detrimental to a persons well-being, and it can be helpful to learn the art of self-compassion, in order to be gentler with ourselves, and to build positive ways of treating ourselves.
So what exactly is self-compassion? In essence, it means to have the same compassion for yourself as you would for others. This means you would first need to recognize the suffering you are experiencing.
Take a moment to consider your own suffering now.. are you stressed about work? worried about other peoples opinion of you? experiencing suffering from your past? what's really happening inside yourself to create this suffering?
Self-compassion also involves feeling warmth and caring for your own well-being, just like you would care for others who are going through a difficulty. This involves recognizing your need to be cared for by yourself in this moment.
Take a moment to consider how you could care for yourself right now.. could you take a break? or take a moment to consider all of your positive qualities and create more positive self-talk within yourself? how else could you support yourself?
And finally, as Dr. Kristin Neff (a pioneering researcher, teacher and author of self-compassion) suggests, "perhaps most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness". With self-compassion, a person accepts the experience of suffering within the self as a normal part of being human.
Want to see how much compassion you are already showing yourself (or not)?
Click here for a self-guided test so you can find out if you might need some improvement.
Surprised by the results? Read on for specific examples of building more compassion within yourself and your life!
There are many ways you could build practices of self-compassion into your own life, and let's now explore five different examples.
1. Have a Mindful Moment:
It may seem like mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzz word recently.. and I'm completely okay with that! Practicing mindfulness can help us to slow down and create a safe environment for self-compassion to occur.
Mindful moment script:
In order to practice your own mindful moment, you might want to choose a quiet location and somewhere that you feel safe. Find a comfortable position to sit in (or you can also do this walking or during most activities) and allow your body to naturally relax.
Allow your eyes to close (or leave them open if you prefer) and allow yourself to settle into this relaxation. Take an even breath in.. and hold it for a moment.. before releasing.
When thoughts come into your mind, bring your awareness to them, acknowledge these thoughts, perhaps notice any of the suffering you are currently experiencing, and then bring your awareness back to your breath by taking an even breath in.. holding it more a moment.. and releasing this breath.
Repeat as necessary.
Guided breathing exercise:
Dr. Kristin Neff shares a guided breathing exercise focusing on
affectionate breathing (approximately 20 minutes in length).
3-minute breathing space:
Let Zindel Segal walk you through a short breathing exercise
based on mindfulness & meditation practices.
2. Keep a Self-Compassion Journal:
Keeping a journal is a great way to express your thoughts and feelings, keep track of hopes and dreams, or even identify your fears, or personal sufferings. It can be tough to reflect or become aware of the aspects of your life where you may be experiencing suffering, but it can be helpful to identify and also work towards building compassion for yourself for what you're going through (no matter how big or small it might seem).
Some areas you may wish to focus on in your compassionate journal:
Try out these prompts to help guide you on the process of practicing self-compassion through journaling.
3. Practice a Loving-Kindness Meditation:
As author Sharon Salzberg describes, "loving-kindness meditation focuses on developing feelings of goodwill, kindness and warmth towards others" and "is the cultivation of a steady, unconditional sense of connection that touches all beings without exception, including ourselves".
Practicing loving-kindness in your own life can ensure that you're being compassionate to yourself, especially during the tough times.
Click the button below to listen to a guided meditation
and experience loving-kindness for yourself.
4. Focus on Positive Self-Talk:
It's normal to have a voice inside the mind constantly chattering away (this is a normal part of the human condition, too - so no need to worry!). Sometimes our self-talk can be positive.. we might congratulate ourselves for a job well done, or encourage self-care routines when we're feeling drained. Other times, this inner voice might not be so encouraging, or even take on a negative tone (and for some people, negative self-talk can be constant).
Creating a positive dialogue within yourself can help to promote self-compassion and can also be a great coping strategy during tough times.
Some ideas to promote positive self-talk are:
5. Practice Forgiveness:
Forgiving others can be tough.. forgiving ourselves can be even more difficult. But being able to practice steps towards creating a space for forgiveness in our lives can help us to move on from suffering.
Since the practice of forgiveness can be pretty hard to do (especially if it involves a long history of suffering or unresolved emotions), be kind to yourself through this process, or ask for more support, like from people you trust in your life or a professional mental health support person, like a therapist.
Try this out on your own by using the forgiveness exercise created by Christopher Germer, PHD.
How do you practice self-compassion in your every day life? Join the conversation in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
~ The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts & Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, PhD
~ Self-Compassion: The Power of Being Kind to yourself by Dr. Kristin Neff
~ Loving-kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg
~ More mental health & wellness resources here!
References: self-compassion.org; mindfulselfcompassion.org; mindful.org; sharonsalzberg.com
*Some of the links on this page are embedded with affiliate links. Any revenue that I receive through affiliate marketing helps me to keep the rates charged to clients lower so that more individuals can access therapy at an affordable rate.