Compassion is one of the most important qualities we possess as human beings. It is the ability to feel and show empathy and extend kindness to those who need comfort in times of distress or need. However, when confronted with our own personal challenges and failings, why don’t we turn that same compassion inward? What if we could show the same support and understanding to ourselves as we do for others?
In life, things do not always happen the way we expect or want. Sometimes we are met with frustrations, make mistakes, or fall short of our expectations — and that is okay. It is a part of being human. But too often we resort to needlessly judging or being overly harsh to ourselves. The result is our self-worth takes a hit and knock-on negative consequences often follow.
We need to practice turning that same love, acceptance, and understanding inward. So, how do we change this and show ourselves more compassion?
Continue reading to find out how you can cultivate self-compassion
Self-compassion means being mindful of our physical, spiritual and emotional needs. Instead or criticizing ourselves, we need to mindfully accept those shortcomings, and realize that those negative experiences do not define us. Once we are accepting of that fact, we will allow ourselves to be more open to that reality. Of course, this is not easy to do, but the more we practice this, the more challenging experiences can be met with kindness and caring.
Kristin Neff, a researcher and author of Self-Compassion, believes that self-compassion is showing the same compassion to yourself as you would a friend. She defines it in three elements:
Self-kindness vs. Self-judgement
Self-compassion involves being kind and understanding to ourselves, when we feel inadequate. It is also important to recognize that we are imperfect beings, therefore there is no reason to berate ourselves when life does not happen to our expectations.
Common humanity vs. Isolation
None of us are alone in our mistakes — we all make them. Recognize that we are all vulnerable and imperfect, as it is a part of the shared human experience.
Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification
Take a balanced approach when it comes to negative feelings as these should neither be suppressed nor exaggerated. Be willing to observe negative emotions and feelings with openness and a sense of balance.
Studies report that there is a positive correlation between self-compassion and psychological well-being, which includes less anxiety, fear of failure, and shame. It also shows that self-compassion is also connected to greater emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction.
Here’s how to start practicing self-compassion in your life.
Make mindfulness a habit
Practice non-judgmental self-awareness by becoming more aware and balanced regarding your thoughts and feelings. When your critical inner voice starts to speak, try not to get caught up in negatives you can inflict on yourself. Instead, try to progress, and not wallow, in these messages and think constructively about how these thoughts may be actually trying to either protect or motivate you.
You are not alone
The hardest part about practicing self-compassion is giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt. We can be our own worst enemies. We often think we are the only ones in the world dealing with certain issues, but it is simply not true. Recognize how universal some problems are and that you are not alone; be open to talking with friends, loved ones or professionals. It will help.
You have the permission to be imperfect
No one is perfect, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be. Give yourself a break and recognize that, fundamentally, self-compassion is about self-love. Accept who you are unconditionally and embrace that mistakes can and will happen. We are all human.
Be kind to yourself
Begin to relate to yourself with kindness and perspective. Think about how far you have come or achieved. Understand that just because you made a bad choice, you are not a bad person. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt and another chance, just like you would advise others.
Build a support system
Whether you decide to seek guidance from a therapist or to confide in someone close to you, make sure it is in a environment that makes you feel safe. Sometimes talking with someone else can help you to recognize your feelings and to develop a more realistic and useful perspective of yourself.
An important key to remember is that self-compassion is neither selfish or indulgent. It is important for your emotional well-being and it is critical to not only being able to take care of yourself but also to take care of others.