How to be Kinder to Yourself: Steps to More Self-Compassion
Have you ever lost patience with –yourself? Maybe you have a natural tendency to beat yourself up after doing something you regret?
Perhaps after being tough on someone, you were much tougher on yourself?
It's easy to be hard on oneself –we do it a lot more often than we realize. But what if there's a better alternative? Self-compassion is a skill that we can develop by forgiving ourselves, accepting our obvious shortcomings, and being gentler to ourselves. Although it's harder than it seems, we can learn the proper methods to make it a habit that sticks.
The idea of self-loving or being compassionate toward oneself may be alien to some people. This is particularly true for those who have grown up in abusive or harsh families where compassion may not have been experienced or expressed.
Self-compassion is a concept from Buddhist psychology that describes a gentle manner of relating or reacting to oneself. It should not be mistaken for conceit or arrogance, which in fact typically signify a lack of self-love.
We can have positive regard for ourselves through self-compassion. And it is a construct that can be experimentally measured. It is made up of three distinct categories (i.e., self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness) that Associate Professor Dr. Kristin Neff operationally defined and contributed to the literature on positive psychology.
Neff defines self-compassion as kindness to self which one can demonstrate through gentleness and being understanding and supportive. This means being kind to oneself no matter what: in sickness and health, in good times and bad, and even when one fails or makes mistakes.
Reach out to JarvisHypnotherapy if you need the help of a therapist to learn the skills and the habit of self-compassion.
Why practice self-compassion?
Over the past ten or so years, studies have consistently found a link between psychological wellness and self-compassion. Those who practice self-compassion are found to be higher in emotional intelligence, happiness, social connectedness, and overall life satisfaction. There is evidence that self-compassion is associated with lower levels of anxiety, shame, depression, and fear of failure.
According to Ravi Shah, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, compassion is a critical ingredient to resilience and healthy self-esteem. Although narcissism and its many issues are widely discussed today, we do need people to have some healthy dose of narcissism. This gives one a steady sense of self when things don't go too well –be it a loss in a competition, a bad day at work, or a loss of a job. We'll have a difficult time bouncing back if we lose our sense of self-worth when facing these challenges and hurdles.
RuPaul once said that if we cannot love ourselves, it would be impossible to love somebody else.
Individuals who lack self-compassion often display a pattern of dysfunctional or toxic relationships. Author Anis Qizilbash explains that how we treat ourselves reflects how we let others treat us. "If you're unkind to yourself, you create a standard for how much abuse you accept from others and as a result end up attracting abusive and disrespectful relationships.”
When we have self-compassion, we are less inclined to rely on other people to affirm our self-worth.
Read related: How to Practice Self-Compassion: 8 Techniques and Tips.
So, here are simple ways to begin exercising self-compassion:
1- Regard yourself as you would a little child.
Try to consider what a child might need or want in a hurtful situation. It could be your own child or picture yourself as one. Although many adults don't feel compassion and gentleness for themselves, they typically recognize that a child who scraped their knees wants or needs to be held and comforted.
Much progress can be achieved when you give yourself the very compassion you might give a child. Also try imagining how you would approach and regard a beloved pet or a good friend, and then start treating yourself the same way.
2- Observe mindfulness.
When we find ourselves stuck in an onslaught of self-criticism, it's usually the result of getting sucked into our negative narratives—typically ones that often play on-repeat in our heads: "You don’t know what you’re talking about. You always say such stupid things. That’s why no one likes you,” etc.
Over-identification, which means giving in to our inner critic, is frequently followed by its equivalent: negative rumination. The cure for both is mindfulness, which is a state of nonjudgmental awareness.
3- The principle of shared humanity: you're not alone.
Remember that being able to feel makes us human, and millions of other people are going through the same things as we do. If we can acknowledge our shared humanity and the fact that none of us is without flaws or weaknesses, we can start to feel more connected to others, and a sense that we're all in this together will comfort us.
So many people are convinced that they're "screwing up" and "broken" when in truth, we are all groping our way through this script-less life alongside each other.
Assistant clinical professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, Daniel Bober, agrees that self-compassion is about being more considerate of ourselves and recognizing that because we are imperfect, our flaws and failures should bring us together rather than divide and isolate us.
4- Take it easy on yourself: allow yourself to be imperfect.
Chelsea Leigh Trescott, columnist and breakup coach, explains that self-compassion is about allowing space for yourself to be human: be imperfect and sensitive, be lazy and unproductive. It's about not putting yourself down and never losing faith in your potential even when you "lose" it sometimes.
In order to embrace how you are feeling and acknowledge that other people feel or have felt this way before, psychotherapist Kristen Martinez likes to employ the "permission slip" metaphor. This is the idea of giving yourself permission to slip and make a mistake.
5- Find a coach or therapist who is supportive.
We understand that self-compassion is a skill that our brains can acquire, but changing one’s thinking habits or behavior requires work. Self-compassion is difficult to cultivate all on our own.
Therapy offers a safe space where the therapist can support you by encouraging you to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, develop a realistic view of yourself and others, and show empathy for you. You'll eventually start to internalize these abilities and incorporate them into how you view the world.
Working with a therapist whom you feel comfortable and supported is essential. Your therapist should be able to help you see through the smoke and mirrors of unhealthy beliefs and discover the amazing person you have always been.
The experts in JarvisHypnotherapy can help you practice self-compassion and (re) start learning to live with yourself much more easily.