Living is giving. We hear this all the time but perhaps it needs an asterisk. Part of “giving” involves being kind to yourself. The more you love yourself, the more you progress. As you progress, you position yourself to do more giving.
Unfortunately, many of us go through cycles in which we’re not very self-loving. We have so much compassion for others. But we don’t aim any of that compassion back at ourselves. Obviously, this is not a sustainable pattern.
What is compassion?
Compassion is often confused with empathy. Empathy allows us to see ourselves in another’s place. Compassion, you might say, goes further. When we feel compassion, it’s because we want to ease the suffering of another. In addition, compassion allows us to see the best in others.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is a tricky state. We are usually our own toughest critic. We might even believe we deserve to feel bad. See the best in ourselves? This is often much harder than seeing the best in others. It’s been said there are three elements to self-compassion.
The 3 Elements of Self-Compassion
1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment
This brings us back to that inner critic. Self-compassion asks us to listen to a kinder voice.
2. Common Humanity vs. Isolation
Here’s where empathy plays into the equation. Self-compassion asks us to see our feelings as part of a larger community.
3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification
Self-compassion reminds us to be present. But it also reminds us that we are much more than just our thoughts.
Why is Self-Compassion So Hard to Attain?
We often mistake self-compassion for self-pity or self-indulgence.
Self-compassion is a rare practice. We might not even recognize it when we see it. Let’s say someone we know treats his/herself with compassion. Do we judge them for being selfish or self-centered?
We see being self-critical as a common form of motivation.
From drill instructors to fanatical personal trainers, we seem to worship abuse. It motivates us, right? Therefore, a kind voice is not viewed as a good thing.
We live in a social media world.
All day, every day, we’re stacking ourselves up against others. Who gets more likes, shares, comments, and followers? Everyone, it seems, is having more fun than we are. The results are rarely self-loving.
5 Ways to Develop Self-Compassion
Once you have an understanding of what self-compassion is, you can work to develop yours. Here are five ways to increase your self-compassion and begin to treat yourself as well as you treat others.
1. Practice Self-Care
Focus on basics like regular exercise, healthy eating, steady sleep habits, and so on. Taking care of yourself does more than keep you healthy. It also retrains your brain to aim compassion inward.
2. Do unto Yourself
If someone came to you after a bad experience, how would you talk to them? What type of language would you use? You deserve the same compassion from yourself.
3. Forgive Yourself
If someone you love makes a mistake and apologizes, you forgive them. Again, you deserve the same compassion from yourself.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness keeps us present. We become more aware of how we see ourselves. We also focus less on past issues or future fears.
5. Challenge Yourself to be Positive
Pick ten days in which you refuse to engage in negative self-talk for more than two minutes. If it passes two minutes, you start again from day one. By day ten, you will feel transformed!
It’s a form of self-compassion to recognize when you need help—especially if you are dealing with emotional or mental health issues. Working one-on-one with a therapist is an excellent way to move along on this journey.