Self-compassion is a priceless gift you give to yourself and everyone around you. Being good to yourself is not a trend or a luxury or a selfish indulgence; it’s a necessary ingredient to lasting joy, inner peace, and a deep fondness for one’s own life.
“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” – Christopher K. Germer
Anytime failure comes knocking, usually shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, and/or stress will follow. When things go badly, we have the option of either becoming our own worst enemy or our own best friend. Making ourselves feel bad doesn’t make us more successful, and so we need to find a new way of engaging with ourselves during difficult times.
Instead of talking to ourselves like the enemy, let’s try treating ourselves like we would a good friend.
In Maya Angelou’s words, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Change usually is not pretty, and so we rejoice in the end-result while oftentimes forgetting about the transformation it took to get there.
If you’re going through a hard time right now, have some compassion for this part of your journey. See yourself through the lens of genuine compassion. Being easy with yourself makes happiness easier to come by.
Three Components of Self-Compassion
There are three components of self-compassion, according to Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor in the University of Texas at Austin’s department of educational psychology. As noted in this study, “Self-compassion involves being kind to oneself when confronting personal inadequacies or situational difficulties, framing the imperfections of life in terms of common humanity, and being mindful of negative emotions so that one neither suppresses nor ruminates on them.”
So, let’s vow to show ourselves some kindness today. Let’s try to appreciate the fact that we’re not alone in our suffering. Let us be mindful of our internal state without the need to judge, only to notice, accept, and love.
Kindness Towards Oneself
“The one thing you can control is how you treat yourself. And that one thing can change everything.” – Leeana Tankersley
Self-kindness is taking an approach of understanding rather than punishing. It’s saying, “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. Let me be kind to myself in this moment. Let me give myself the compassion I need.” Showing yourself some compassion doesn’t mean that you think your problems are more important than anyone else’s; it means that you think your problems are also important and worthy of some kindness.
If someone you love was in a difficult situation, perhaps a moment of perceived failure, what would you do or say to help? Try turning that same kindness, care, and concern towards yourself. You can even write yourself a letter from the perspective of a compassionate friend; in fact, research shows that if you do that for seven days in a row, it actually decreases depression for three months and increases happiness for six months.
As it turns out, showing yourself some love makes you more resilient in the long run.
Recognition of Common Humanity
“When we give ourselves compassion, we are opening our hearts in a way that can transform our lives.” – Kristin Neff
Self-compassion also involves recognizing that we are not alone, even when we feel like we are, and that everybody goes through this feeling. Logically we know that nobody is perfect or leads a perfect life, yet when we fail or receive bad news, we can feel like something has gone terribly wrong or that this shouldn’t be happening. The feeling that this is abnormal creates isolation, which is damaging psychologically.
Self-compassion involves recognizing that suffering and imperfection are integral parts of the human condition, and it’s a way to feel more connected to others.
Contrary to self-pity or self-indulgence, self-compassion is really the notion that life is difficult for everyone sometimes. It’s a way of investing in yourself that not only improves your life, but the lives of those around you. Being supportive, kind, and forgiving towards yourself is the kind of love that can’t help but spread to the world around you.
A self-compassionate attitude also helps us mitigate the need for superiority–to be better–because it connects us with people as opposed to separating us from them.
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known.” – Brene Brown
The third element of self-compassion is mindfulness–accepting what is even when it’s uncomfortable. Being compassionate means not to run away or avoid the darker emotions and negative thoughts, but to shine a light on them. It means we neither ignore nor exaggerate feelings of failure, but open our hearts to the internal suffering and stay with it long enough to respond with care and concern.
If we can be mindfully aware of the uncomfortable parts of ourselves, we can give ourselves the kind of loving care that makes us feel nurtured and nourished, not judged or deprived. This self-administered care also means that we can be less expectant of others to supply us with all of our emotional needs exactly how and when we want it.
It happens that, according to research by Dr. Neff, those with self-compassion do have more of a chance of being happier in relationships; their partners are happier with them, they give more, are more intimate and caring, are less controlling, and they’re less insecure.
To grow more compassionate towards yourself, ask yourself:
What do you need today?
How can I support you?
How can I help you?
What words do you need to hear today?
- How do you practice self-compassion?
- How do you remind yourself to be kind and patient with yourself?
- Are you willing to treat yourself with the same unconditional love that you would give to a loved one?
Please share your thoughts and experiences with me in the comments.
Share this post with someone you care about.
What if we just decided that we are enough?