“You don’t make enough money! You’ll never get that promotion! You don’t spend enough time with your kids! You always snap at them! You’re eating way too much! You’ll never lose that weight! You need to have some control! You’re no good! You don’t deserve compassion!”
Have you ever been told things like that?
Could it be the one talking to you so harshly you isn’t someone else, but you, yourself?
It’s a strange thing, but most of us usually find it easier to feel compassion for others than for ourselves.
Why do we have such a hard time being self-compassionate? And can we change this unhealthy behavior?
What Self-Compassion Is
Compassion is defined as “a sympathetic awareness of another’s suffering or adversity coupled with the desire to alleviate it”. It involves your innermost feelings – empathy, tenderness, and kindness – and your subsequent actions. It touches your heart. You suffer with them, and that’s why you’re moved to want to do something to help them in some way.
Self-compassion is no different – only, it’s directed at yourself. It means feeling and acting kindly, tenderly, and empathically toward yourself. It means to stop judging and criticizing yourself when you think about the things you don’t like about yourself, when you’re having problems with a situation, or when you fail at accomplishing something. And it means, instead of ignoring the pain you feel, you comfort and show love to yourself.
What Self-Compassion Is NOT
1) Self-compassion is NOT self-indulgence.
Indulgence means to be lenient and self-serving. Self-indulgence is about getting what you want, without much thought about your own well-being or that of others. A self-indulgent person denies and numbs their pain. Self-compassion, on the other hand, involves concern for your health and well-being. A self-compassionate person acknowledges their pain and doesn’t try to numb it away.
2) Self-compassion is NOT selfishness.
Self-compassion seems selfish because it appears to be contrary to putting others’ needs ahead of oneself. However, in order to love and be kind to others, you must first love and be kind to yourself.
3) Self-compassion is NOT discouraging.
Many think that you can’t be motivated unless you criticize yourself. However, the power of self-criticism to motivate is actually based on fear of self-punishment. In contrast, self-compassion motivates in a much kinder way, encouraging you to be healthy and happy and reduce your own suffering.
How You Can Generate Self-Compassion
- Be mindful of your pain – Don’t repress it, don’t rationalize it, and don’t distract yourself. Simply notice what’s happening and what you’re feeling. NO judgment included! Don’t even try to make it go away with compassion; that’s just another way of repressing it.
- Show yourself kindness – Treat yourself like you would a suffering best friend in need of support. Don’t be harsh, but speak kindly to yourself and give yourself understanding. Embrace yourself with compassion. Feel the warmth and care toward yourself, the desire to want to soothe and help.
- Accept your humanness – Sometimes it may feel as if you’re the only one in the world with that particular flaw, or that specific problem. But that’s not true. All of humanity shares the same types of suffering. We’re all in this together. So, don’t criticize and judge yourself constantly. It will only make you feel isolated.
Understanding what self-compassion is can encourage you to make changes – not because you’re unacceptable or worthless as you are, but because you care about yourself. Working diligently to apply the three aspects of self-compassion will prevent you from mercilessly beating yourself up. It will also allow you to become the happy and healthy person you truly want to be.