DO YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR EMOTIONAL HEALTH? TRY PRACTICING SELF-COMPASSION
Have you ever noticed that most people are harder on themselves than they are on others? We are quick to tell our friends, “It wasn’t your fault,” when they make mistakes, but when the tables are turned, we end up blaming ourselves and brooding in regrets over certain things we did wrong.
The question then is why do we treat others kinder than we treat ourselves?
I think the answer is simply because we haven’t learnt to practice self-compassion, and I’ll explain what that is in a few moments.
Let’s be honest, life is hard and can be cruel to us at times. Subconsciously we internalize some of that cruelty and turn it towards ourselves, expecting crazy standards of perfection from ourselves that we can’t maintain. If we learn to practice self-compassion, we would feel less negative when life happens to us and take it all with grace.
So what’s self-compassion? Self-compassion means being gentle, supportive and kind with yourself. It means understanding that you’re not perfect but that all of your mistakes can help you learn and grow. It is a state where rather than judge yourself for your personal mistakes, you treat yourself with unconditional acceptance.
Sadly, for many people, this is a strange idea. All the more so if you came from a home that love and compassion where not modeled. Yet, the research has constantly shown that self-compassion correlates with psychological well-being and happiness.
Self-compassion has three elements;
- Self-kindness - avoiding harsh criticism of yourself.
- Recognizing that everyone is imperfect, including yourself.
- Mindfulness or being aware of your negative emotions, not ignoring them but not exaggerating their effects either.
It’s important to point out that self-compassion is not self-pity. In the words of Psychologist, Kristine Neff, while self-pity says “poor me,” self-compassion recognizes that life is hard for everyone, and that knowledge helps you go through your difficult moments with a little more strength.
If you want to start practicing self-compassion, here are 4 simple things you can do every day.
- Give yourself permission to make mistakes: If your inner critic is the loudest voice in your mind, then you have probably bought into the lie that you have to be perfect at all times. No, you don’t. Allow yourself room for errors. Don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection that you cannot reach. Remind yourself that you can be flawed and imperfect, and when you make mistakes, smile at yourself and remember to learn the lessons you need to learn.
- Forgive yourself: We all do stupid stuff. We all make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we are stupid, it only means we are human, and with our humanness comes imperfections. That’s why you need to always forgive yourself for the mistakes you make. Maybe it’s getting into the wrong relationship, or not getting out of one on time, forgive yourself. Only when you learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes can you grow from them.
- Be mindful of your thoughts: Pay attention to the inner voice that is always running commentary in your mind. For many of us, that negative voice is our default mode so we never even notice it. When you catch yourself saying negative thoughts in your head, try and rephrase those words in a way that encourages you. So when your mind starts to think, “You’re the ugliest person in this room, why is your nose so long?” Try rephrasing it as “I am beautiful in my own way. My nose may be longer than that of most people, but that doesn’t mean I’m ugly, it just means I am different.” A simple trick is to think of what one of your kind friends might say to you, and say that to yourself.
- Write a letter to yourself: Imagine that you had a friend who has the same struggles as you do, what would you tell him or her? Now write that to yourself and read it when you need to. Or you can do what I do and schedule it as a mail to yourself for some time in the future.
Finally, remember that how you treat yourself is an indicator of how others are going to treat you. I hope this helps. In my next post, we’ll talk about self-acceptance, until then, love yourself a little more.