If the way you experience positive feelings towards yourself is based on your successes (or inevitable failures), you are likely to live a life where your relationship with yourself fluctuates in association with your most recent accomplishment. Self compassion can be an alternative way in relating to yourself that is more flexible, kinder and does not depend on achievement.
In a society where we constantly receive messages telling us to “be better”, “have a better relationship”, “look better”, “have a more successful career” it is easy to start to believe that being critical of ourselves will push us to become better. Maybe this will work in the short term, but there will come a time where someone else is more successful than you in a given area. If your tendency to be kind to yourself is based on being successful, at this point, chances are you are probably feeling pretty miserable. By becoming more self compassionate we are able to handle these experiences without them negatively impacting our mood, our relationships or even our mental health.
Self compassion involves treating ourselves with love, warmth and support regardless of how successful we have been. It is the inner dialogue we have with our self; the way we talk to ourselves and treat ourselves throughout our lives.
Self compassion includes:
- Validating and accepting our emotions
- Becoming more mindful and aware of our experiences
- Gently encouraging ourselves
- Acknowledging that there will times where we will make mistakes
- Reacting kindly to ourselves in difficult times
When you are able to become self compassionate, negative feelings and occurrences are more tolerable. You are able to increase your awareness of all of your human experiences without fear of them overwhelming you and destroying your self esteem. You will also have more control over your life because your sense of self won’t be controlled by external events. You will be able to make decisions that align with your values.
If you want to develop your capacity for self compassion, try the following:
- Consider whether you would treat a friend or someone you love in the same way you’re treating yourself. Would you criticise a friend for not receiving a promotion at work? Would you call a friend stupid for dropping and breaking a cup?
- Write a compassionate letter to yourself where you acknowledge and validate your emotions. Ensure the purpose of this is to convey compassion (not improve performance or change your experience)
- Practice mindfulness. Increase your awareness of your emotions in a non-judgmental way that accepts them with kindness and makes space for them in your present experience.
- Become more mindful and aware of your inner voice. When you notice it is becoming critical acknowledge it (without criticising yourself for being critical!) and try to take a more compassionate approach with yourself