The Art of Self-Compassion

What is self-compassion and what does it look like?

In a time where many are focused on self-care, and for good reasons, part of self-care includes being kind to yourself. This is easier said than done because often times we are our own toughest critics. However, in this post, I want to discuss some of the core values/components of self-compassion and how we can better practice it.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion, as defined and researched in-depth by Associate Professor Dr. Kristin Neff, includes self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness (Neff, 2003a 2003b).

Self-compassion entails loving ourselves no matter where we are in life. For example, you may not like a certain part of your body, but self-compassion encourages you to love all parts of yourself even as you are working on yourself.

Self-compassion is being kind to yourself just as you are kind to others. We all know the saying, “treat others as you would treat yourself,” but many of times we treat others better than we treat ourselves and I would say that it pretty backwards.

Self-compassion doesn’t shift the blame of mistakes from ourselves to others, but rather it causes us to take accountability for our role in our faults, failures, mistakes, etc., but we are to learn from those things and move on. When extending self-compassion to yourself, do not berate or punish yourself for not living up to a certain expectation or for simply being human and making a mistake. Learn from these experiences and see how you can do better in the future.

Self-compassion allows us to see ourselves as human and not less than. There is not one person on this earth that was born perfect. No one does everything right and no one has all the answers, and when you become more mindful of this, you can then begin to practice more self-compassion.

Self-compassion is understanding that it is okay to feel, but as we feel, we must also allow ourselves to heal. We all have setbacks and challenges, that is a normal part of life, but life because more complicated when we remain in the pits of despair or continuously dwell in negative feelings and on negative thoughts. This isn’t to say that we must be positive every single day and never have a negative thought of feeling, that just isn’t realistic, but it’s to say that we have an obligation to ourselves and our lives, to try to pick ourselves up and keep going.

Finally, self-compassion isn’t just for ourselves, but it’s for others as well. If we are more kind and compassionate towards ourselves, we become less judgmental. By becoming less judgmental of ourselves, we in turn are likely to extend that same level of compassion to others, which takes us back to “treat others as you would treat yourself.” We are more apt to encourage others to be kind to themselves as well. Being kind and compassionate does wonders for our souls and overall wellbeing. Science has shown (so you know I am not making this up), that when we perform kind acts, feelings of confidence and happiness are increased. We experience more happiness, peace, see improvements in our interactions and our relationships with others, and it also becomes contagious. My point is, just as we experience a more joyful life from being kind to others, imagine the type of life we would experience if we were ALSO kind to ourselves!

How can one practice self-compassion?

1. Be more mindful about your thoughts and what you let seep into your heart.

2. See yourself as being human, no more and no less.

3. Seek perspective. This can be done through a supportive network of a professional and/or those whose perspectives you trust. We can’t see everything that’s in our way and sometimes it takes another set of eyes and ears to keep us on track.

As an additional resource to help you become more compassionate towards yourself, explore my library of self-care tools.  Also, if you currently are consciously practicing self-compassion, let me know in the comments what has worked for you.

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