Self-compassion can help.
Compassion means we take a moment to consider what another person is going through, and try to understand how hard it must be.
We don’t feel sorry for them, which makes them different or even beneath us. We seek to see how we’d react in the same way if we were in their shoes.
Self-compassion means we turn that attempt at understanding on ourselves. If we were a friend, how would we treat ourselves? What words of encouragement would we offer?
To be compassionate, we need to accept there is a problem in a first place.
So self-compassion isn’t flaky — it rather requires courage to see our pain, acknowledge our problems, and then still be kind to ourselves.
Self-compassion is also embraced by the psychology community. The phrase was first coined in a paper published in 2003 by educational psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff, and has since been the subject of several hundred articles and studies.
Positive talk and focusing on strengths were for a long time the popular ways of raising self-esteem. But if they are being used in a way that completely ignores any struggle, they might take you ten steps forward and nine steps back when the issue resurfaces.
Self-compassion means you accept yourself as you are, and are kind to yourself anyway. It requires no ‘changing’ on your behalf. But it creates an environment where you might naturally change as you are no longer struggling against yourself. And you gain back all the energy you were previously using to constantly monitor and criticise yourself with.
Think of a child who is always being told off by a parent and being forced to ‘be good’. The child becomes nervous or rebellious. They might try to be good, but then act out. But if that same child is accepted and loved at all times, no matter his or her behaviour or mood, they are far more likely to then behave willingly.
There are three elements that combine to help you have a mindset of self-compassion. They are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
This means that you work to notice and stop the negative inner soundtrack where you criticise and berate yourself. Instead, you try to talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a good friend. You acknowledge you are doing the best you can, even encourage yourself.
Try writing a letter to a friend going through a hard time, then change the name at the top and read it to yourself. How does it feel?
2. Common humanity.
Comon humanity means you recognise that you are not alone in your struggles and imperfections. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes feels bad, and that’s okay.
The next time something doesn't go right and you are assuming nobody else would ‘be so stupid’ or ‘have such bad luck’? Pause and think of three people you know who have recently had bad luck or made mistakes also. How much less lonely does it feel?
Mindfulness means making a concentrated effort to be fully in the present moment, instead of caught up worrying about what we did wrong in the past, or what might go wrong in the future.
Take a mindfulness moment now. Breath deeply into your diaphragm, and place all your attention on your breath going in and out. Relax your shoulders and your arms. Then notice your thoughts and feelings. Are they things you were aware of a few minutes ago?
Self compassion can help with:
Definitely. There is even now a kind of therapy that focuses just on compassion. Compassion-focused therapy, or ‘CFT’, is all about helping you feel kinder towards yourself, and feel safe in a world that might sometimes overwhelm you.
Ready to be nicer to yourself and feel better? Use our easy booking tool to find your perfect therapist and start talking.