How to Practice Self-Compassion
It’s time to turn down the volume on your inner critic. Before you do, though, take a small moment to acknowledge it. Your inner critic has a purpose: it can keep you safe and help you learn. It will help motivate you in times of danger and urgency.
Most of us, however, have an inner critic that is too loud, drowning out a more useful voice: self-compassion. And here’s the exciting thing: not only does self-compassion help us heal and grow, it also allows us to take responsibility for our mistakes, show compassion to others and improve our relationships.
What is self-compassion?
Compassion for self is really the same as compassion for others. It involves noticing suffering, responding with empathy (the word compassion comes from the Latin compati, which means “suffer with”), and offering kindness, not judging. You would do this for a friend, so why wouldn’t you do it for yourself? Ultimately, self-compassion means honoring yourself as a human with all your strengths and imperfections.
Isn’t that just self-pity?
Nope. Self-pity immerses you in your own problems and blinds you from the interconnectedness of human suffering. Self-compassion connects you to others in the acknowledgement that we are all human. Self-pity just turns you inward.
How do I practice self-compassion?
1. Accept painful feelings. Turn into, not away from, painful feelings you may associate with failures, bad decisions, weaknesses or imperfections. Stifling these might make you feel worse. Instead, approach these feelings from a mindfulness lens by noticing and accepting them, then being kind to yourself and recognizing that these are part of a shared human experience.
2. Keep these feelings in perspective. Try to remember that these feelings don’t construct your full reality, nor do your mistakes or imperfections define you.
3. Treat yourself as a friend would. Be kind, understanding and loving. Remind yourself of your strengths and encourage yourself to move forward. If you find this difficult, try writing a letter to yourself as a compassionate friend would.
4. Try to find internal validation. Negative thoughts and self-talk often stem from beliefs of how others perceive us. We are not mind readers, and we cannot control what other people think. Try to find validation internally through kindness and acceptance.
Still not convinced? Studies have shown that not only does self-compassion benefit you and those around you, but also it can help increase your emotional intelligence, performance at work and sports, ability to age more comfortably, and more.
by Lisa Isenman, LGPC Intern