If your compassion doesn’t include yourself, it’s incomplete. – Jack Kornfield
Self-compassion is truly no different than the compassion you show the people you love and care for. It’s simply nurturing, accepting, and forgiving yourself while allowing yourself to be human. It’s about showing yourself loving kindness in moments of adversity. All humans are flawed and you are no different, yet so often the expectations we have for ourselves are astronomically higher than the expectations we have for others. We all need to give ourselves grace, and in order to do this, we need to practice. We need to make a conscious effort to be self-compassionate anytime we are faced with feelings of suffering or failure and help ourselves the same way we might help someone else.
Practicing self-compassion has actually been scientifically proven to decrease anxiety and depression and increase happiness. It provides resilience and strength in times of hardship or stress and has even been linked to improvements in chronic health disorders, body image and eating disorders, relationships (professionally and personally), emotional intelligence, motivation, and just general well-being. In fact, it has even been proven to have a physiological response to the sympathetic nervous system and can actually improve the body’s response to stress. So now that you know what it is and why it’s important, where do you even begin? Let’s look at 5 ways to start practicing self compassion that you can employ right now!
- Stop the Negative Self Talk
Do you ever find yourself looking in the mirror and saying unspeakable things to yourself? I’m too big, I’m too small, I’m too ugly. Or maybe you missed a deadline? You idiot! You are such a failure! So many of us have this constant dialogue going through our heads that we wouldn’t utter to our worst enemy. So why do we say these things to ourselves? Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in self compassion says that self kindness vs. self judgment is the first step towards self compassion. So instead of speaking to yourself as if you’re worthless, be mindful of your inner dialogue and try to start talking to yourself the same way you would speak to your best friend or even your son or daughter. You are enough, you are entitled to make mistakes, you’re human and mistakes are ok, you have so much to offer! This is a much more empowering and compassionate way to talk to yourself!
- Let Go of Perfection
First and foremost, there is no such thing as perfection. there is no such thing as perfection! Attempting to constantly achieve it is exhausting and quite honestly useless. Our strong desire to reach this unattainable trap, leads to inevitable negative self-talk when things don’t go according to plan. It leads to feelings of worthlessness when we can’t reach the unachievable bar that we have set for ourselves and can ultimately cause us to freeze and do nothing for fear that it won’t be perfect. The kindest thing you can do for yourself is acknowledge your suffering in this area and let it go; let go of perfection and bravely put yourself out there into the world with permission to make mistakes.
- Express yourself
Express your thoughts, feelings and emotions, they are a gift to the world and should be shared. In the book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’, Brene Brown, says that “unexpressed ideas, opinions and contributions don’t just go away but instead fester and eat away at our worthiness.” So if you are hesitant about pulling the trigger on a business idea or talking to a loved one about something that has been bothering you, don’t hesitate. You deserve to be heard.
- Seek comfort in knowing you aren’t alone
We as a society have a tendency towards terminal uniqueness; thinking that our suffering is unique, and that only us, as individuals, are experiencing suffering in any particular way or that everyone else has it all together and that we are the only ones who can’t figure it out. The simple fact that we ALL feel this way at some point or another suggests it’s anything but unique. In fact it’s the opposite, it’s common. Common humanity is another part of self compassion that Dr. Kristin Neff asks us to pay attention to. We are all part of the same human experience. We aren’t suffering alone, and to be human is to be imperfect, so give yourself some grace!
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an incredible tool for a multitude of reasons, and self compassion is no exception. It is important that you are mindfully aware of how you are feeling. You can’t be compassionate with yourself without first understanding and accepting your feelings and your thoughts. With this being said, it’s equally important to not become consumed with these emotions and thoughts, rather observe them. Pushing negativity out completely and acting as if everything is sunshine and roses, is not the answer. You can’t show yourself compassion if you first don’t understand or see where you need it. So next time you feel negative feelings and thoughts bubble up, take a moment to sit with them. Close your eyes and look inward from a non judgmental space. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions without giving them power, it’s then that you can begin practicing self compassion.
Remember you are worthy of self compassion today. So let go of judgement, shame and negative self-talk. The next time you experience internal or external suffering, approach it with loving kindness and warmth. Your feelings and thoughts do not define you!
To do a deeper dive into this incredibly important work, join Dr. Jodi Larry, a certified Daring Way™ instructor, for an inspirational course called Rising Strong. It’s a 4-month course based on the research of Dr. Brene Brown and will explore the depths of self-compassion, shame, vulnerability and so much more. Learn more here.
Self compassion is also one of the 5 pillars of wellness that Dr. Jodi teaches in her Rituwell™ 10 Day Foundational Reset, which will give you all of the tools you need to live your best life!
By Kristin Nixon