Have you ever experienced one of those moments that maybe something didn’t go as you expected or maybe you completely failed? Then did you find yourself feeling regretful or even a bit of shame? It can be easy to be tough on ourselves, sometimes we can really beat ourselves up being so harsh and critical about our shortcomings. Can there be a different way to respond to ourselves? If we are overly critical do we grow from those thoughts, feelings and judgements? Or is it possible a failure or mistake combined with negative self judgement leads to feeling isolated and worse about ourselves?
What if we responded to ourselves with Self Compassion? This often sounds hard to do in these moments we can easily get swirled into. What if we changed some habits and became more aware of our inner dialog? Is it kind? Is it constructive? Is it compassionate?
According to emotional research, compassion is defined as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. To feel moved by others in a caring and understanding way. To be compassionate is to “suffer with” recognizing that failure, mistakes and imperfection is a shared experience among all humans.
Self Compassion then refers to being able to recognize one’s own struggles, difficulties, mistakes and failures with kind intentions. Having self pity or shame and a perception that failure is an unique experience can be very isolating. When we act in a way that is Self Compassionate we are noticing these difficult and often painful moments and responding with care and comfort. Self Compassion can allow space to accept emotions, to process them, and then to let them go. I often think of Self Compassion as an inner resource or a tool in one’s toolbox to cope and embrace self forgiveness.
It can take practice to allow ourselves to be self understanding and sympathetic, not critical and self judging. Life experiences of feeling failure is almost unavoidable and being gentler and forgiving of self allows us to be present in these emotions in a healthy and accepting way. Humans are all mortal, vulnerable and most of all imperfect.
So how do we change some of our habits to be more compassionate? With the right techniques we can make a conscious effort to tune into our thoughts, and to notice them. Then how can I change them to be more kind and more forgiving. If we write down some of these thoughts it can help to draw attention to them. Then we can reframe them to be more kind, and more compassionate.
Another way to practice Self Compassion is to respond to yourself as if you were a valued and trusted friend. What advice would you give your friend if they were suffering? What would you say to them to ease this suffering, to overcome a mistake or failure?
Sometimes having a mantra or a positive affirmation that we could reflect on when we need to be reminded to be accepting of our best and worst aspects. Having this accessible and visual can help us be reminded to be more compassionate. These are some examples of an affirmation starter for motivation are:
- Everyone makes mistakes, it is ok. I can make a mistake and I can forgive myself.
- Changing is never simple but it’s easier if I stop being hard on myself.
- I deserve compassion, tenderness and empathy from myself.
- My mistakes just show that I’m growing and learning.
- I am free to let go of others’ judgments.
- Change takes time and I am patient with myself.
- I’m not the first person to have felt this way, and I won’t be the last, but I’m growing.
- Every day is a new opportunity. I won’t let self-doubt or judgment hold me back from the future.
- I forgive myself and accept my flaws because nobody is perfect.
Lastly, Guided Meditations that focus on Self Compassion can be so powerful when we need to hit pause and take a break or find space to plant some seeds of self compassion, to find some of these meditations follow this link. https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations
Want to learn more? Check out these books on Self Compassion.
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself – Kristin Neff
How to Be Nice to Yourself: The Everyday Guide to Self-Compassion – Laura Silberstein-Tirch, PsyD
Carrie-Lee, MACP specializes in the areas of stress management, personal growth, as well as many others. For more information on Carrie-Lee and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.