Self-compassion is simply treating yourself with kindness. It's the antidote to self-judgment and self-criticism. It is the practice of being gentle and forgiving when you make mistakes or fall back in negative patterns when you “should know better. Self-compassion is a key step in any healing journey. After all, your relationship with yourself is the one that will last the longest and affect you the most.
Why even bother with self compassion
There’s a ton of talk about loving yourself first and perhaps it sounds a little fluffy and hokey to you-you’ve got so many other things on your mind (and to do list) already. Flexing your self-compassion muscle has been shown to have significant benefits in your physical and mental health. It may seem obvious but increased levels of self-compassion are linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety-you know, the states that are most linked to heart disease, obesity, gastro-intestinal problems, auto-immunce disorders and insomnia. Learning to be a little nicer to yourself can give you back sick- time and have you connect with a feeling of wellbeing in your body.
Ok, fine. I’ll be more compassionate. But how?
There’s a bunch of ways to become a self-compassion master. First things first: start by paying attention to the ways that you are being critical and judgey to all the parts of you, including the past yous and the yet-to-be yous. I know this sounds like a terrible drag and, honestly, it might be. But in order to cure a scraped knee, we need to clean it up first. So, tune your attention to your thoughts and behaviors. The more you catch yourself, the easier it will be to turn it around.
Here’s some tips on polishing up your self-compassion game while you become aware of what’s going on inside your head.
1) Take care of the basics
Have you ever had a day where you felt like a million bucks for no reason other than you really liked what you were wearing or how your hair looked that day? We all do. When we feel good about the way that we look and feel, we naturally feel more confident and are kinder to ourselves. So if you’ve been slacking on going to the gym, or even showering and putting on clean clothes, get to it. Feeling good in your body will naturally shift your inner monologue.
2) Be Mindful of Your Thoughts
Positive self-talk encourages and supports us when we are feeling down or discouraged; it helps us build confidence and hope for the future. The trick on positive self talk is to make it sound like you. If your body feels like you’re lying to yourself, it will ignore all your positivity, or worse, it may double down on the original negative thought. Here’s an example: Instead of turning “I’m so stupid, I can't get anything right” into “I am smart and do everything right”, which your inner critic may roll their eyes at, try “I make mistakes but I am learning to do this better”.
3) Would you say that to your BFF?
When you catch your brain being self-critical, imagine saying those same exact things to your best friend or to your kids. I bet it sounds way harsher when you imagine their reaction on their face. You deserve the same level of courtesy and respect that you show the people you love and care for.
4) Express yourself clearly
We’ve all done it, we say yes to a dinner or to a party when all our cells are begging us to say no, we let it slide when someone speaks to us with disrespect because we just don’t want the confrontation and conflict. It is natural to want to be liked and to avoid disappointing people. Most of us would rather fly under the radar than set an uncomfortable boundary. When we make this a habit, we are telling our inner-self that it’s ok to disappoint and disrespect ourselves.
Start speaking clearly and honestly. If you would rather go paddleboarding alone than spending another Saturday at yet another gender reveal, say no. You don’t need to be mean about it-you don't even need to explain yourself. If someone is consistently rude to you, tell them that their behavior is unacceptable and you would like it to stop. This is hard for many of us but it is possible, and practice makes it easier. When you set boundaries you send a clear message to yourself: my needs matter.
5) Just let it go
We all have a thing we did in our past that we haven’t forgiven, maybe it’s cheating on a test, maybe it’s keeping a terrible secret. Whatever it is, it is a good practice to talk to that other you. Sit and write a letter to the you that did this awful thing and let them off the hook. It is in the past. If you need to make amends, make them. But let that you know that you are willing to leave the past in the past. Identify the lesson, apply it, and find a way to be grateful for what you’ve learned and for how the event has the potential to make you a better person.
6) Be kind to others
Sometimes it is way easier to be compassionate towards other people than it is to be compassionate to yourself. So practice, practice, practice. Find opportunities to imagine yourself in another’s shoes. This will train your brain to do the same when you need it the most.
This is an act of Self-Love
When we work on self-compassion, you show yourself (and the world) that you love and appreciate who you are. This will teach others to treat you with the same kindness and respect. Becoming fluent in self-compassion may take some time, especially if it is not something you are used to. Fluency comes with practice so get to it. You got this.