The basics of self-compassion
Many of us feel like self-compassion is unnatural, however, when we experience distress our initial reaction is to help ourselves by elevating it. Self-compassion is not something to be ashamed of it is something to embrace. Everyone desires to be safe, happy, healthy and at ease. We all long to be happy and free from suffering. Unfortunately, we all suffer at some point in our lives but self-compassion is the healthiest way for us to address our inevitable distress (Germer, 2009). Often times when we feel distress, we punish ourselves because we believe we are suffering because of our inadequacies. This leads to self-criticism, self-isolation and self-absorption. Self-compassion directly counters these responses through self-kindness, understanding common human experience and mindfulness (Germer, 2009).
Self-kindness allows us to face our suffering, failure or inadequacies with gentleness, warmth, generosity and understanding. It also involves understanding what we need and fulfilling it. For example, feeling hungry and then eating a healthy snack or feeling sad so asking for a hug from someone you love.
One way to generate more self-kindness is to think about how you would feel, act or think human, pet or animal you love is hurting. Then direct those feelings, actions and thoughts toward yourself. (Germer, 2009)( Neff,2020).
Mindfulness can be described as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally,” says Kabat-Zinn. In other words, mindfulness is being fully engaged in the present moment by being aware of what is happening in every realm; physical, emotional and spiritual. Being mindful while you are suffering allows you to accept your thoughts and feelings in a balanced way. The goal is to accept and observe our suffering, not reject it or become consumed by it. Being curious and open about suffering not obsessed and fixated on it (Germer, 2009)( Neff,2020).
3. Common Humanity
This is recognizing that suffering is part of life. Everyone experiences suffering. There may be people right now experiencing similar suffering to you. This does not mean that your suffering is not as significant. It means that you are not alone. Sometimes when we feel isolated in our suffering leads to us feeling shameful about it. Shame isolates us from others which in turn leads to greater suffering. You are not the only one who suffers, fails or feels dark emotions.
Myths of Self-Compassion
There are many myths about self-compassion. It is important to think about the myths or negative associations that you have about self-compassion because these may prevent you from being able to practice it. These are four common perceptions of self-compassion.
Benefits of Self-Compassion
1. Increased Compassion for others
2. Better Emotional Regulation
3. Increased motivation and less procrastination
4. Less fear of failure
5. Less fear of rejection
6. Greater happiness and optimism
7. Increased emotional intelligence
8. Increased social connectedness
9. Greater Self-esteem
10. Overall better psychological well-being
For more information, resources and tools to increase your self-compassion visit www.self-compassion.org which is a website developed by a leading self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff. I would also highly recommend her book Self-compassion and the Mindful Self-compassion workbook.
Germer, C. K. (2014). The mindful path to self-compassion: freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Kbh.: Nota.
The five myths of Self-compassion . (2015, September). Retrieved January 23, 2020, from http://www.self-compassion.org/
The three elements of self-compassion . (2020). Retrieved January 23, 2020, from http://www.self-compassion.org/