I'm sure you're great at showing compassion to others and making them feel better when they are low. But do you also do that to yourself when you are the one feeling low?
When a friend or a family member is feeling low, we instinctively show compassion to them, and help them in any way possible to make them feel better.
But when we are the ones who feel bad about something, we often blame ourselves, say mean things to ourselves and really beat ourselves up about it. We feel like we don’t deserve to be loved by others, or ourselves at that moment.
While it’s absolutely fine to feel bad for a failure or mistake, sometimes our guilt feelings and self hate escalate so much that we start feeling them for very minor things, or even without a reason.
And it’s amazing when our friends come to help us feel better in those times, but what if I told you that there was a way for you to lift yourself up as well, or even stop beating yourself up for minor things altogether?
Self compassion means:
Being nice, kind and understanding to yourself in times of failure or pain.
Feeling a part of a larger human experience, i.e. not feeling alone in your suffering.
Practicing mindful awareness to identify your painful feelings and thoughts in an objective way.
Self compassion is widely researched, and here are its main benefits (1-5):
Self compassion reduces depression and anxiety.
It was linked to connected language use rather than separate language use. This means that the study participants felt a connection to others in their trouble, rather than feeling alone in their worries.
The study participants whose self-compassion increased over one month had also increased their overall psychological well being.
Self-compassionate people showed to have greater life satisfaction.
Social connectedness, i.e. feeling as you are a part of something, such as a group or all living things in the world, was associated with higher self-compassion.
People who were self-compassionate showed to have higher emotional intelligence, which means that they could better understand and feel others’ emotions and intentions.
Self-compassion was found to reduce the feeling of shame in people as they experienced setbacks and mistakes as learning opportunities and understood that they are inevitable part of life.
Fear of failure was reduced for people who were more self-compassionate.
Those people were also less likely to experience extreme stress and burnout as they knew how to be kinder to themselves during tough times
Are you convinced to become nicer towards yourself?
I hope so!
Here are three ways to be nicer to yourself by cultivating self-compassion daily and in difficult times:
1. Imagine that you are talking to your friend, or a small child.
Imagine that your friend is the one feeling bad. What would you say to them? Now try saying the same things for yourself.
You can even imagine a little child feeling bad and think of how you would talk to them. Or imagine yourself as a child.
It’s a very powerful and quite easy way to give yourself an outside perspective and immediately feel better. It gives you a chance to look at the situation from a more objective perspective.
2. You’re not alone in your trouble.
Us humans share a lot in common. Chances are quite big that something you’re experiencing now has been experienced by someone else in this world.
Thinking this way usually decreases the power of my problems over me and gives me comfort knowing that someone else has gone through something similar, or even worse, and come out of it.
Understand that you’re not alone in your suffering, even if it feels like it. We all make mistakes and go through difficult times.
Growing up, I felt quite alone in my problems and thought that I was the only one experiencing them. As my friends and I got older, we all started talking more real to each other and realized that we all have gone through difficult times in our own ways and that everyone’s life was far from perfect, which I used to assume before.
Coming to that realization - that we all experience a lot more than what we show to others and that people who you think have perfect lives may even have it more difficult than you - has really made me feel more connected to everyone.
3. Mindfully observe and identify your feelings when you feel bad about yourself.
Getting caught up in our negative train of thought is extremely easy. It really drags us in and doesn’t let us leave.
Whenever you catch yourself doing it, imagine that you are just an observer of your thoughts and see which thought pops up in your head at every moment without judging it or trying to change it.
Keep observing them as you would be observing clouds in the sky and let them pass by or even dissolve, like the wind blows away the clouds in the sky. Don’t interact with them, just observe thought after thought and the possible pauses in between.
After a while of doing this, you may feel calmer and free from the negative thoughts about yourself. It might take a few rounds of this mini-meditation for you to stop beating yourself up about the event, but do it as many times as you need.
I have been doing these self-compassion exercises for a long time now and I can truly say that it really works to be nicer to yourself most of the time and it does wonders to your wellbeing. Of course, there are times when you just can’t shake off the feeling and that’s also completely fine.
Letting yourself feel what you need to feel for as long as you need to feel it is also an important step to be able to let it go later. But even then it’s important to practice the three ways to be nicer to yourself by cultivating self-compassion, as they increase your overall psychological wellbeing in the long run.
I am very interested to hear your opinion and tips on what you'd like to read about in this blog, so you are more than welcome to leave a comment here, or contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Laura | MSc in Medical Science, Certified Mindfulness Life Coach
Neff, Kristin D., Kristin L. Kirkpatrick, and Stephanie S. Rude. "Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning." Journal of research in personality 41.1 (2007): 139-154.
Barnard, L. K. , & Curry, J. F. (2011). The relationship of clergy burnout to self-compassion and other personality dimensions. Pastoral Psychology. doi:10.1007/s11089-011-0377-0
Mills, A. , Gilbert, P. , Bellew, R. , McEwan, K. , & Gale, C. (2007). Paranoid beliefs and self-criticism in students. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 14, 358–364. doi:10.1002/cpp.537
Neff, K. , Hsieh, Y. , & Dejitterat, K. (2005). Self-compassion, achievement goals, and coping with academic failure. Self and Identity, 4, 263–287.doi:10.1080/13576500444000317
Neff, K. , Rude, S. , & Kirkpatrick, K. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 908–916.