Self love may seem like an essential component of emotional wellness but for many of us, the idea of self-love can feel more aspirational than actually attainable. If you feel this way, there is an alternative..
SELF-COMPASSION: extending compassion to oneself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or suffering.
Self compassion is comprised of three main components:
1. Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
2. Common Humanity: Common humanity is the understanding that unpleasant feelings are part of the human experience, that suffering is universal. We are connected not only by the joys in our lives, but in our struggles, heartaches, and fears.
3. Self Kindness: People cannot always be or get exactly what they want. When this reality is denied or fought against suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional equanimity is experienced.
Now, self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time instead of ignoring your pain. Instead of judging and criticizing yourself for your possible inadequacies, by practicing self compassion you are kind and understanding of your personal failures.
Most importantly, having compassion for yourself means that you accept your human-ness. You will encounter frustrations, that is inevitable and losses will occur. This is the human condition, a reality that is shared by all of us on this earth. The more you open your heart to this reality, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself.
Here are FOUR simple ways you can practise self-compassion:
1. Check in with yourself
When was the last time that you paused in the middle of your day to focus on yourself? Doing this can help you assess your energy level, physical cues like racing heart or sweaty palms and emotions.
Take a minute and practice checking in with yourself.
Try this: Be still and concentrate on your breathing. Then ask yourself:
- What is my energy like right now?
- How is my body feeling?
- What emotion(s) am I feeling right now?
2. Practice Forgiveness in yourself
For some of us, checking in with ourselves in the present moment can be difficult. For others, the greater challenge is in recalling our past mistakes and finding a way to forgive.
Try this: Think of a past choice you made that you deeply regret. Then ask yourself:
- What were the consequences of that choice?
- What feelings, beliefs, or events led me to make that choice at that time?
- I can’t change the choice I made, but I can change how I react to the choice I made.
3. Be a friend to yourself
When was the last time that you treated yourself like you would a friend of yours?
Try this (exercise adapted from Kristin Neff, PhD):
- Imagine a good friend is feeling especially bad about themselves or really struggling in some way. How would you respond to your friend in this situation?
- Now think of a time when you felt bad about yourself or were struggling. How would you typically respond to yourself?
- How might things feel different if change if you responded to yourself in the same way you typically respond to a close friend when you’re suffering.
4. Keep a self compassion journal
Keep a daily self-compassion journal for one week. At the end of each day, spend some time reviewing the day and write down anything that you felt bad about, anything you may have judged yourself for or an experience that may have caused you pain.
Try this (exercise adapted from Kristin Neff, PhD): For each event, use the following 3 components to help process what happened in a self-compassionate way:
- Mindfulness. What painful emotions came up as a result of your self-judgment or difficult circumstances? As you write, try to be accepting and nonjudgmental of your experience, neither minimizing it nor exaggerating it.
- Common humanity. In what ways was your experience connected to the larger human experience? This could include recognizing that being human means being imperfect, and that painful experiences are universal. (“It’s only human to become impatient at times.”)
- Self-kindness. Write down some kind, understanding, words of comfort to yourself. Let yourself know that you care about yourself, using a gentle, reassuring tone.
Wherever you are in your self-compassion journey, I am sending you all the love - Jen