Self-compassion is one of the most preeminent acts of showing love to oneself. It is also quite difficult to do because most people have grown
around people who criticized them more than they complimented them. This has resulted to a significant number of people having an inner voice that is self-critical than self-compassionate. This inner critic is strengthened if one’s personality is neurotic and by the fact that our mind remembers more
negative experiences than the positive. If this nature is coupled with critical/neglectful parents, critical friends and family, one may find it very difficult to see anything good in themselves and therefore amplify the self-criticism and stymie any chances at being compassionate with oneself.
Dr. Kristin Neff is a renowned researcher of self-compassion in positive psychology. She says that many people tend to confuse self-compassion with self-pity. They think that if they are self-compassionate, they are just allowing themselves to be lazy and or simply giving excuses for not doing well. They think that self-criticism will keep them motivated. Research by Dr. Neff shows that that kind of thinking could not be further from the truth. Self-criticism, in fact, leads to lower levels of motivation and leads to the brain releasing stress hormones which leaves us distressed and depressed. On the other hand, self-compassion is helps to reduce anxiety, depression, helps people to age positively, reduces burn-out and even helps individuals to deal better with PTSD. Self-compassion is a good thing for you.
Three key building blocks are given by Dr. Neff as leading to self-compassion:
This is care and concern towards yourself, especially during times of suffering and pain rather than ignoring your well-being or being harsh on yourself.
That you understand that people are suffering and that no one is perfect including yourself. This calls for you to offer help to them and to not forget yourself. Intentionally seek and accept help.
Mindfulness/Loving Kindness Meditation
This is being aware of your inner self talk, observing your suffering and those of others with empathy. We thus notice how we’re hurting ourselves and others. As we practice meditation, we send positive wishes to ourselves, to people we love, to people we are struggling to have positive feelings towards and to the whole of humanity.
It is very important for your wellbeing that you self-compassion. As with any habit, one can start with intention and with repeated actions and over time, it will become easier to do it. Here are some practices you can engage in to help you be more compassionate with yourself. You can direct the same practices towards others too. Here we go:
- Presence: be present to yourself; listen to your thoughts and emotions. Affirm how your feelings: don’t deny/judge or celebrate them, just notice
and accept them.
- Touch: Allow yourself to be touched by someone you trust (a hug, a pat, a massage) and in case of a marriage situation, allow yourself to engage
a romantic touch (cuddling etc.) with your wife or husband.
- Speak: Be vulnerable to someone. Tell them about your skeletons and your devils. Talk to someone who cares about you, is trustworthy and
honest enough to give you true feedback.
- Slow-down: Or even just stop. Whom are you competing with? Stop comparing your story with anyone else. You don’t have to accomplish
everything while you are still young.
- Aim for higher things: Between peace and popularity, why not chose peace? Between joy and possessions, why not joy? Between power and
humility, why not humility? Walk gently in the world for at the blink of an eye, you will be gone. Define what success means to you as opposed to pursuing a success defined by the world that ends up sucking away your energy, peace and joy.
- Celebrate your positives: However small, either by words or gifts, celebrate your accomplishments. If you do something well, reward
yourself and then aim a little higher. Ask someone you care about to celebrate with you.
- Allow and accept caring acts: If someone offers to do something for you, no strings attached that is, accept it. Don’t always assume you are
bothering people. If you feel good doing something beautiful for others, allow them to feel the same.
- Be patient: You are not perfect. It is okay. You will mess-up, that is perfectly normal. Don’t look back at some mistakes and keep telling
yourself how you should have seen that. It is in the past. Focus on the future. So, learn to let go of any anger or disappointment you have
towards yourself. In a word, forgive yourself.
- Treat your body well: Sleep between 7-9 hours; you may not feel it but your body needs it. Eat healthy. Exercise. Meditate. Breathe.
- Focus on your strengths: there are many things that you do well. Don’t allow yourself to forget them. Don’t focus on others’ strength as a
comparison with yourself. Don’t worry if others have 10 talents and you have only two. Focus on your two and thrive.
- Seek Positive Relationships: Find people who are honest (they celebrate you but also criticize you when necessary), trustworthy (you can be vulnerable to and trust them to keep that confidence) and caring (they genuinely want what is good for you).