The Importance of Self-Compassion – Nurturing a Kind Relationship With Yourself
Self-compassion is an easily learnt skill, and many are surprised to discover its multiple physical and psychological benefits. Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as self-kindness during times of suffering; common humanity (recognizing that everyone suffers), and mindfulness.”
Studies indicate that those with greater levels of self-compassion tend to experience reduced anxiety and depression levels, increased emotional resilience and are better at turning maladaptive internal dialogue into motivating reinforcement for change.
1. Recognize Your Feelings
Self-compassion requires awareness of one’s feelings and accepting them without judgement, in order to prevent yourself from falling into problem-saturated patterns of response.
Begin by identifying what emotion you’re experiencing (e.g. sadness, anger or fear). Once identified, try giving it a name and noting what might be contributing to its appearance such as stressful events or negative inner voices.
Once you recognize your emotions, think about how they could motivate changes to be made in your life. For instance, feeling embarrassed after an outburst could encourage taking responsibility and moving on more quickly from such behavior.
Kristen Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology, defines self-compassion as having three elements. These components include “self-kindness”, “common humanity”, and “mindfulness”. When applied to oneself, “self-kindness” refers to treating oneself kindly while common humanity connects personal failures with the shared human condition while mindfulness involves engaging in nonjudgmental, present moment awareness.
2. Accept Your Mistakes
Self-compassion can be achieved by being more understanding about your mistakes. Try to comprehend why they happened and the harm caused. For instance, if an accidental breakage caused some one to miss their favorite knick knack by accident was your responsibility, think about their feelings and what can be done to rectify their situation.
Self-compassion consists of three parts, including “self-kindness”, “common humanity”, and “mindfulness”. Self-kindness involves showing yourself kindness; common humanity recognizes suffering and personal inadequacies as part of human experience; while mindfulness provides nonjudgmental present moment awareness open to all feelings.
Studies suggest that people who show themselves compassion tend to set high standards for themselves, then stick with those standards even when they fall short, instead letting their failures dissuade them from trying again (Neff, 2003b). But don’t mistake self-compassion for weakness or narcissism – in fact it makes you more motivated to give another try and keep health and well-being front of mind when facing challenges (Neff 2003a).
3. Practice Self-Compassion
Practice self-compassion requires adopting an attitude of warmth and fairness toward yourself. This means acknowledging that everyone experiences difficulties from time to time and accepting that mistakes may happen – just as if treating another friend or family member was involved.
To foster an attitude of self-compassion, try practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness allows you to step back and observe your thoughts and emotions objectively, which can reduce their power over you. Expressive writing may also be useful in relieving stress and decreasing negative ruminations.
Think of something soothing and nurturing for yourself – such as a soothing cup of tea, receiving an embrace from a loved one or watching an amusing video (creating a “laughter library”) to bring some light relief on difficult days. By providing yourself with care similar to that provided a loved one, this approach can turn critical voices in your head into motivating inner coaches cheering you on as you work toward change.
4. Talk to Yourself
Even though talking out loud to oneself may seem odd, studies have proven it can be very beneficial. Speaking aloud can help clarify thoughts, improve memory and make managing feelings easier.
However, how you talk to yourself is the key. Self-compassion encompasses three components: self-kindness, common humanity and mindfulness. Treating yourself kindly means practicing self-compassion while acknowledging suffering as part of life is part of human experience while mindfulness involves nonjudgmental awareness.
One way to foster self-compassion is writing yourself an encouraging letter as though you were writing to an old acquaintance. For assistance in getting started, take a look at this Greater Good In Action walk-through.