5 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
Many of us have huge hearts and are willing to do anything for our friends and loved ones, but we can forget to extend the same love and kindness to ourselves. Think about the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12). We are taught from a young age to be selfless and look out for everyone else, but we aren't told how to really look after ourselves.
When we put ourselves on the back burner, we start to feel depleted, unmotivated, sad, stressed, unhappy and overall unfulfilled. It is time to take back your life and create the life that you have always dreamed of - a life filled with gratitude, love, success and happiness!
What is self-compassion?
I'm sure you have heard of the word compassion. The word "compassion" translates "to suffer with," meaning that we are empathetic to others' pain and sadness. When we have self-compassion, we are understanding and empathetic toward our own experiences. Self-compassion involves treating ourselves with love and kindness, just as we would treat our best friends. It means that when we make mistakes or struggle through difficult times, we offer warmth and care to ourselves, rather than harsh judgment and critical comments. We remind ourselves that all people make mistakes and that no one is perfect.
How to practice self-compassion:
1. Speak to yourself like you would comfort your best friend or a child.
When you are going though a difficult time, allow yourself to sit with your emotions and actually feel what is going on for you. Ask yourself, "How am I feeling right in this moment?" and then, "Why might I be feeling this way right now?" Taking the time to focus on how you're feeling allows you to process why things are so hard for you. It can help to journal or write down how you're feeling and what you are experiencing, so that you don't get stuck in a downward thought spiral. Speak to yourself in a soft, kind voice rather than a harsh, criticizing voice. Think about what you might say to a friend in this scenario. How would you comfort your friend or a child rather than blame them?
2. Catch your inner critic voice and say "stop".
We all have an inner critic voice that fills our head with negative thoughts. Tune into your thoughts and notice if your thoughts are positive and helpful or negative and unhelpful, making the problem worse. If the inner critic voice pops up, catch it and talk back to it. Say "stop!" Resist the urge to put yourself down, and instead, show yourself some sympathy and understanding. Validate your emotions. If something painful has happened in your life, then it would make sense that you are feeling sad or hurt. If an obstacle was in the way of you achieving your goals, then it would make sense that you are feeling angry and frustrated. Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but instead of dwelling on what did not go so well for you, switch your mindset and focus on moving forward. What did you learn from this situation? How can you do better next time?
3. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.
Pause for a moment and ask yourself what you need right now. You can't solve any problems when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you need to take a break from the task you are doing, find a way to de-stress and walk away. If you are at work, go make a tea or take a 5 minute walk outside. If you are at home, lay down, put your hand on your heart, and slow down your breathing - inhaling goodness and exhaling doubt. Maybe you need connection and reassurance from a loved one, so call or text them. Do whatever you need to show yourself kindness.
4. Remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments.
When we mess up, we are quick to bring up all of the other times that we have failed at something, and then we feel even worse! Combat self-doubt by writing down your positive qualities, skills, and accomplishments (small and big). What do friends, coworkers, and family members like about you? What makes you a good person? What is something nice that you did for someone? What are you proud of? Writing these positives down actually helps your brain soak in the information better so that you can recall these attributes again and again.
5. Forgive yourself.
When we are feeling low, we start to think that we are the only ones who could be feeling that way or are failing at something. Take a few deep breaths and zoom out to see the big picture. Gain a broader perspective and remind yourself that we ALL make mistakes and that no one is perfect. The most important thing is that you acknowledge your mistakes and see how you can learn from them. The only way to grow is to be new or bad at something, or mess up, then practice to get better. Our brains learn so much faster and remember so much more when we make mistakes because our brains don't want us to make the same mistakes again. The reality is that we all mess up many times, but we grow stronger each time. Instead of dwelling, motivate yourself to move forward.
Written by Vanessa Goodchild, Registered Psychologist
A lot of people struggle with self-compassion because it involves adopting a whole new mindset. Our therapeutic specialties are helping people learn how to overcome their anxiety, depression, traumatic experiences and false beliefs that keep them stuck in an unhappy life. We will work together to help you build a life worth living - a life that is fulfilling, meaningful, and happy.