How would you rate yourself on self-compassion? Having compassion for yourself is really no different than having compassion for others. But somehow, it doesn’t come as easily for ourselves – at least not for me. To have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering and respond to their pain.
To have compassion for yourself means acting the same way towards yourself when you’re having a difficult time, failing, or noticing something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
At our July GaGa Sisterhood meeting, speaker Carla Brown discussed the importance of self-compassion and how to become more self-compassionate.
The problem starts with negative thoughts and self-judgment. We all have negative thoughts throughout the day. These negative thoughts can drag us down and suck the life out of us if we let them, affecting our self-confidence and self-worth.
Sometimes, we don’t even realize how much we’re judging ourselves. It’s just so automatic. It’s the background noise we wake up to. It’s the background noise that plays as we go about our days—and follows us into bed. This is why it’s important to be mindful of our thoughts.
Mindfulness is one of the key components of self-compassion, says Dr. Kristen Neff, a renowned expert on self-compassion and author of The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.
Mindfulness means keeping a non-biased awareness of your experiences, even those that are painful, rather than either ignoring or exaggerating their effect.
Mindfulness is holding your own thoughts and feelings rather than suppressing or being carried away by them.
Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
Having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life.
This element of shared humanity is the second component of self-compassion. That means understanding that your feelings and experiences are not completely unique. No matter how hard we try to avoid or hide them, all humans go through hardships and have daily pains, frustrations and disappointments. Knowing that there’s strength in numbers can be comforting.
The third component and really the essence of self-compassion is self-kindness. Being kind to yourself is not only providing comfort in the moment; it is also committing whenever possible, to reducing future instances of such suffering and learning how to refrain from harsh criticism of the self.
Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals. People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
On Kristen Neff’s self-compassion website, she provides free guided meditations and exercises for building self-compassion.
So the next time you find yourself slipping into self-judgement, remember these 3 tools for changing your mindset:
- Be mindful of your thoughts
- Be aware you’re not alone
- Be kind to yourself