How to Practice Self-Compassion
We often hear that we need to be kinder and less critical of ourselves, but that’s easier said than done. Often, our self-critical thoughts have been developed over so many years that we hardly even notice them happening anymore. Or, at times, we may believe we need this type of ‘tough love’ in order to motivate ourselves to be better (that we will be ‘soft’ if we are too kind to ourselves). This is untrue. Repeated criticism results in increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which leads to the body trying to protect itself by beginning to shut down (e.g., depression). So, it’s important to be aware of those critical voices and challenge them when they come up. Engaging in the practice of challenging those self-critical voices is an act of self-c
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is expressing kindness towards oneself, especially during times of pain and suffering. It includes:
There are three elements to self-compassion:
What’s the difference between self-compassion and self-esteem?
Sometimes people equate self-compassion with self-esteem which can make it difficult to believe that one can improve their skills when it comes to self-compassion. So, it’s important to know the difference.
Self-esteem is typically used to describe a person’s feeling of self-worth, and while this is important, many people have a challenging time making significant changes to their self-esteem. Self-compassion on the other hand isn’t a judgement of self-worth or rooted in your value, it’s simply the act of treating yourself with kindness, care, and support. These are things you can do independent of self-esteem.
Self-compassion offers the same well-being benefits without all the pitfalls such as fewer social comparisons, is less contingent on self-worth, has no association with narcissism, and buffers against negative effects of low self-esteem in adolescents.
Self-compassion is also linked to better overall coping and resilience, as well as provides individuals with some of the following benefits:
It’s important to remember that self-compassion is going to take practice – it isn’t something you are going to develop or improve on overnight. That being said, it’s a practice that is worth investing in knowing the numerous benefits for your overall physical and psychological health, wellness and resilience. But how do we start practicing self-compassion?
A great place to start is with mindfulness. To be compassionate towards yourself, you need to be mindful of your pain and suffering; recognize it, allow yourself to feel it, and embrace it. Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to become more attuned with your emotions and will help you to more easily identify the moments where self-compassion is needed and where your voice is the most self-critical.
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