“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” – Jack Kornfield
The majority of us are eager to offer kindness and compassion to other people, and value when we receive them from others. However, when it comes to giving these same things to ourselves in the moment of suffering, we are more reluctant. Does being kind to myself means I’m self-indulgent? Selfish? Weak? Not only that, but when we fail to live up to our expectations, we often tend to let our inner critic become loud and take over, dismissing the value of kindness directed to ourselves. But what if there is a better way?
3 Elements Of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion is a way of treating yourself – in a supportive way, with understanding, and acceptance. It’s having a friendly, caring, comforting attitude toward ourselves, like a good coach that motivates through support and understanding instead of through harsh criticism.
The concept has been around for a while, but Dr. Kristin Neff was the first one to operationally define it, measure it, and popularize it. She proposes there are three elements of self-compassion:
- Self-kindness – Having an understanding, comforting, and caring attitude toward ourselves instead of using harsh criticism.
- Common humanity – Recognizing that everyone makes mistakes and experience pain at times, and that we are not alone in our experience.
- Mindfulness – Being with what is in the present moment. To be self-compassionate, we need to acknowledge what we feel and make room for it.
Self-compassion is a practice of being kind and loving toward ourselves, whether or not we behave intelligently, correctly, or competently, and whether or not others approve or respect us. It can increase our well-being tremendously, from feeling happier to coping with difficulties more successfully.
Self-compassion is very different from self-esteem. For a long time, self-esteem has been considered a foundation of mental health and the level of happiness. However, more and more researchers suggest that the concept of self-esteem is flawed and can have negative consequences, and that self-compassion might be a better, healthier alternative. We talked about it HERE.
Why Should You Cultivate Self-Compassion?
Studies show that practicing self-compassion releases feel-good hormones in our brain – oxytocin and serotonin – while also reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.
Long-term, self-compassion sets the stage for better mental health and relationships. It turns out that individuals who treat themselves with compassion and kindness tend to have:
- greater happiness
- greater life satisfaction
- increased motivation
- better physical health
- increased quality of their relationships
- less anxiety and depression
- higher levels of resilience that helps them better cope with stressful events
Practicing self-compassion can help us feel better in times of suffering, but it’s important to note that it’s not always the case. It is not a recipe for happiness or a tool to make the pain go away. Self-compassion is a way of treating ourselves while feeling pain. It helps us to not push ourselves to an even darker place with criticism and self-contempt.
Myths And Truths About Self-Compassion
In our culture that highly values strength and stoicism, there are sometimes some misconceptions surrounding self-compassion. Knowing what self-compassion is not and debunking some myths about it can help us feel more empowered to practice it.
Myth 1: Self-compassion means weakness
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion, research shows, is one of the most powerful sources of resilience, helping people overcome difficulties and thrive. Additionally, it doesn’t focus on “poor me” attitude, but exactly the opposite – recognizing that “things can be hard for everyone, including me”.
Myth 2: Self-compassion serves as an excuse for bad behaviour
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion provides emotional safety to see ourselves for who we really are and, from there, take responsibility for our actions. When we know that we are imperfect humans, it is less likely that we will feel the need to find excuses for our behaviour and blame someone else for our mistakes.
Myth 3: Self-compassion is narcissistic
✔️ Truth: Self-compassion, opposed to self-esteem, doesn’t encourage us to see ourselves as better than others in order to hold ourselves in high regard. Instead, it is a way of relating to our experience in a kind, accepting way and acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.
Myth 4: Self-compassion will undermine my motivation to do better
✔️ Truth: Actually, research shows that being hard on ourselves is a serious motivation-killer. It can draw us back because, if harsh criticism is how we treat ourselves, we know that failure comes with very unpleasant emotional consequences. In contrast, self-compassion can be a motivating force that moves us forward because it provides emotional safety for making mistakes and, further, learning from them.
Myth 5: Self-compassion is just self-indulgence
✔️ Truth: There is a big difference between giving ourselves temporary pleasures and making choices that lead to long-term wellbeing. With self-indulgent behaviour, we try to make ourselves feel better instantly, even if those actions are not beneficial for us in the long term. On the other hand, as mentioned before, self-compassion is not a tool to take away the discomfort; it focuses on our long-term wellbeing, even if it means a certain amount of displeasure in the present moment. But it also provides comfort and emotional safety needed while going through that unpleasantness.
How To Be More Self-Compassionate?
Self-compassion is not always easy to do. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially to those who didn’t have caring or particularly supportive figures in their lives. For many, it is a completely new way of relating to themselves. But we can allow ourselves to slowly learn how to do it, one self-compassionate act at a time, step by step.
Here are 5 practices that can bring us closer to being more self-compassionate:
RE-EVALUATE YOUR SELF-TALK
Are you your own worst critic? When you make a mistake, do you blame yourself or put yourself down? Is it how you would talk to your best friend? It’s important to notice our self-talk throughout the day and make a transition from negative self-talk to more kind and empowering way of treating ourselves.
STOP THE COMPARISON GAME
Social comparison is a strong weapon against our happiness. Oftentimes, we tend to compare someone’s best with our average, or even our worst moments which, on top of being pointless, is a recipe for feeling bad about ourselves. Instead, realize we are all different, not only in our traits and abilities, but also in our history and life circumstances.
ALLOW YOURSELF TO MAKE MISTAKES
Encouraging yourself to do your best is not the same as forcing yourself you absolutely must do your best. Allow yourself to make mistakes and forgive yourself for them. This is particularly difficult for some people because they derive a sense of self-worth from performing well, or from perfection. However, you are worthy of love because of who you are, not because of being “flawless”.
Mindfulness and self-compassion go amazingly well together. Noticing what is happening right now, without labelling and with acceptance, is the first step toward allowing yourself to feel how you feel with no judgment. From there, it becomes much easier to manage your emotions and thoughts.
The relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you will ever have. You can’t run away from your own company, so it’s crucial to nurture it. Get to know yourself, your needs, interests, and curiosities, and don’t judge yourself for having them. Instead, allow yourself to schedule some quality “me” time every so often and have a fun or nurturing date with yourself.
Self-compassion is all about giving ourselves room to be human – imperfect and unique, creative and capable of great things at times, flawed and sensitive at other. It teaches us to, though all those ups and downs, unconditionally accept ourselves, and realize that we are connected with others in our imperfections.
How do you practice self-compassion?
Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133-1143.
Cousineau, T. (2018). The Kindness Cure: How the Science of Compassion Can Heal Your Heart and Your World. New Harbinger Publications.
Neff, K. D., Rude, S. S., & Kirkpatrick, K. L. (2007). An examination of self-compassion in relation to positive psychological functioning and personality traits. Journal of research in personality, 41(4), 908-916.
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of research in personality, 41(1), 139-154.
Are you the type of person who needs to do everything in a particular way? Or perhaps things need to be “just so”. It can be tough to let it go and let things just be but maybe it’s time to give it a try! New research published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology shares that perfectionism may lead to stress, burnout, and potential health problems. The researchers took a look at the results of 43 studies, over the past 20 years, and found that concerns about perfectionism can sabotage success at work, school, or on the playing field.
When we think about it, those with perfectionism tendencies have a hard time accepting flaws. They can be hard on themselves, as well as others, because everything needs to be perfect. If you’re never pleased with your work, then things will never be good enough for you. It will be very difficult to stop working because you’ll always wish to make things better.
To work on reducing perfectionist tendencies, try setting realistic goals. Also, accept failures or less than perfect standards as learning opportunities that help you improve for the future. Most importantly, forgive yourself when you fail, and reframe failure as a growth opportunity, rather than defeat.
I was browsing through my Instagram feed tonight when I came across the profile of one of my colleagues in Atlanta, Georgia. One of his blog posts about self-love caught my eye, because many of the clients I’ve worked with have had similar issues.
Rather than trying to rephrase his posting, I’ll quote it for you. He says it best.
Chasing the Cheat’a
May 23, 2015
Solomon E. Stretch
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while now and I just hadn’t been inspired, until one of my beautiful friends posted this quote to her Instagram feed. “Don’t let the mixed signals fool you. Indecision is a decision”.
Why do we play the fool? Apparently, everybody does it.
Why do we choose to waste our time on people who don’t choose us?
Now that’s a question for you! Seriously?! I bet it’s a pride thing, something that Freud would say stems back to our dismissive caregivers. I’m sure there was something lacking that our parents OR our first love (boyfriend, girlfriend, crush, or someone we casually stalked and never caught a charge for) didn’t give us. But us being prideful humans are determined to make that void whole- even if it kills us.
3 C’s of Your Addiction:
Control: Trying to make someone love you
Compulsion: Having the need to do all the things you said you weren’t going to do. Yup, you compromised who you are
Consequence: hurt feelings, wasted time, and you just might look like an ass
Self-love is so important. Clearly understanding your values, what’s important to you, and being confident with your own boundaries will help you create healthy relationships in your life. Be patient with yourself. If you don’t have all these yet, slowly work towards improvement little by little. Surround yourself with a supportive and empowering circle of people. If you don’t have many of those around, consider professional help.
Give yourself some love. It’s one of the most important things you will do in your life.
Finding time for yourself is essential for a happy life. Yes, being ambitious is important, finding time for family and friends also, helping others as well. However, it’s important to take a break and to give yourself some love. Only this way, you will have enough resources for everything else that you strive to achieve. Look at that as a time to refill and charge your batteries. You can’t use your phone when its battery is empty, right? It’s the same with yourself. So, here are 6 reasons why you should schedule time for yourself now:
1. You Love You!
If you’ve ever flown in an airplane, you know that before take-off during the safety demonstration the Flight Attendants remind you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping the person next to you. The same goes in every day life! You have to help yourself before you help others, which means unconditional, self-love, all the time.
2. You Have Hobbies to Enjoy
There’s something so exciting about scheduling into your planner that badminton class you’ve been thinking about all month that makes you feel giddy all over! Spending time doing hobbies; whether it’s working in the garden, sitting in the sun, reading a book, taking a class…whatever it might be you own it, and savor the time, for yourself. For example, my latest hobby has been painting nesting dolls and I am loving it! Although, I must admit that I have only just found out how to prevent them from breaking when trying to get the doll open.
3. Exercise is a Habit
Your exercise is such a habit that if you *don’t *schedule the time in to do it, you feel like you’re missing something. Your body feels like it’s missing the thorough work-out you give it 3 times a week.
Between work, friends, family, your iPhone, your relationship, you’re always on the go! Scheduling time for yourself includes locking your phone in your sock drawer, unplugging and putting away your laptop/iPad, and actually listening to the sounds of the birds chirping in the distance, or, going for a walk along a new path. Sometimes, there’s a need to just be by yourself, in more of a present, peaceful way.
5. Prioritize Time to Set Goals
You know it’s easy to get carried away with life. Often you say to yourself, “where has time gone!” You think back to the days of your early 20’s and say, “that feels like yesterday”. You know that setting goals in all areas of your life helps you succeed, and that taking the time to visualize and plan where you want to be in 1 year, 3 years, and 5 years is the key to your success.
6. Peace and Quiet
That’s right. Studies show that even today, women work as long as men and have more responsibilities around the home than men do. So, scheduling solitude for the tranquility that comes with quiet time helps you hone in on your creative skills, unwind, and find more pleasure in the present moment (which research says really does make people happier. If you want to find out more about mindfulness and great benefits of focusing on the present moment, read our article: “6 Reasons Why Integrating Mindfulness Into Your Life Is Helpful”. ).
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.