How to Practice Self-Compassion

Build Self-Compassion Within

Most of us are taught as children how to be kind, considerate and compassionate towards others. Rarely are we taught to show the same consideration to ourselves. This becomes even more true for individuals brought up in abusive or unloving homes.

However, research has shown the benefits of self-compassion. This practice (and it is an active thing you have to do to benefit from) has been found to very important. Self-compassion helps people to withstand hardships like parenting special needs kids and PTSD. Additionally, it helps you feel stronger emotionally and to have stronger relationships.

What is Self-Compassion?

Is Self-Compassion Religious?

Self-compassion is taken from Buddhist psychology and refers to how we can relate to the self with kindness. While the practice is not religious in and of itself, it can be easily integrated into all types of faith practices–not just Buddhism. And, of course, the inclusion of a faith component is not necessary. Once we get into the actual steps of self-compassion (see below), this will make more sense.

Is Self-Compassion Selfish?

Self-compassion or self-love is NOT to be confused with arrogance or selfishness. While certainly the act of self-compassion does focus on the self, it does so in a way that connects you to greater humanity. In actuality, arrogance and selfishness stem from the absence of self-love. When we truly love ourselves, we have the capacity to truly love others.

Self-Compassion is An Action.

What does it really mean to be kind with ourselves? Simply put, it means that on a day-to-day basis we are mindful of being courteous, supportive and compassionate with ourselves. Too many individuals treat themselves with harsh judgement instead of compassion.

Why is Self-Compassion Important?

Because self-compassion helps us recognize our unconditional worth and value. It allows us to recognize that though we may sometimes make bad decisions, we’re not bad people. This allows us to take responsibility for our mistakes and to learn from them.

Research, over the past decade, has shown the parallel between self care and psychological wellbeing. Those who recognize self-compassion also tend to have better connections with others, are reportedly happier with their own lives, and have a higher satisfaction with life overall. Self-compassion also correlates with less shame, anxiety and depression.

Now that you know the what and why of self-compassion, let’s look at the how.

How to Practice Self-Compassion

Treat Yourself as You Would Treat Others

You would never harshly judge or belittle a small child, but how judgmental are you in your own self-talk? Chances are good, you wouldn’t talk to a friend or even a stranger the same way you think to yourself. You would only want to help and love a small child or a friend. When you begin to treat yourself as you would a small child, you begin to show yourself the same love, gentleness and kindness.

Practice Mindfulness

Every minute your mind is handling millions of bits of information, though you consciously are only aware of a few of them. This is to say we all have scripts or programs running in our minds 24/7. These scripts and programs are running our lives, insisting we have certain behaviors and make certain decisions.

Some of these scripts are the ones that tell us how “bad” or “unlovable” we are. They’ve been running since we were kids. The way to quiet these scripts is to become more mindful of your own mind.

When you begin to have a feeling or reaction to something, stop and ask yourself WHO is feeling that? Is it the compassionate self or the program running? If it’s the program, thank the program for what it has done and release it.

Good Will vs Good Feelings

Self-compassion is a conscious act of kindness we show ourselves; it’s not a way to alleviate emotional pain. Life happens, and we can’t always avoid negative or sad feelings. Never mistake self-compassion as a tool to ignore your deep and rich emotional life.

Self-Compassion Break

As said above, practicing self-compassion is an action. The best way to practice it is during or shortly after you have experienced something hard. Let’s use an argument as an example. You’re in the middle of an argument with your partner and have just said something (or are just about to say something) you regret.

To practice self-compassion here, we would invite you to pause. Acknowledge that this is a moment of suffering. Arguments and disagreements are HARD. Remind yourself that everyone has them at times and we all say things we regret at times. Take a breath in and wish for yourself some compassion towards yourself. As you breathe out, you can do the same for your partner. Continue to breathe in and out, welcoming and offering love, kindness, and understanding with each breath until you can feel your body calming.

This is an example of a self-compassion break, as created by Dr. Kristin Neff, a researcher of self-compassion and professor at The University Of Texas at Austin.

These are just a few ways you can begin to cultivate self-compassion. If you’d like to explore more options or talk to someone about your feelings of self-rejection and judgement, please get in touch with us. We’d be happy to discuss how cognitive therapy, EMDR, or Somatic Experiencing may help.

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