Self-compassion is not something that we talk about every day or even often as a matter of fact and it is something that we need to bring front and center because of the extreme value it brings to not only ourselves as individuals but also to the people we love. While I have written about dealing with low self-esteem, depression, overwhelm, trust issues, worry and fear, and how to be happy or generate your own happiness – self-compassion is a new topic that deserves your full attention if you want to be happy and contented in life.
Self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a good friend and understanding that we don’t have to be perfect in life. Compassion is defined as the ability to show love, empathy and concern for people who are having problems or experiencing a hardship in life or the desire to help someone who is suffering in life. According to Paul Gilbert, Founder of the Compassionate Mind Foundation, the foundation of self-compassion is rooted in courage. Gilbert believes that self-compassion is one of the most important declarations of strength and courage in humanity.
The opposite of self-compassion is self-criticism or having a self-defeating tendency. When we say the phrase “inner-critic” we are referring to those negative thoughts that you have about yourself and the negative things that you say about yourself that are condemning in nature, which often times people are not awake and aware of. Being highly critical of yourself however does not mean you are a perfectionist although it can be an aspect of perfectionism. Having a strong inner critic can lead to very serious problems including a host of serious mental health problems so it is a destructive behavior that would be healthy to interrupt. If you want to learn more about the psychological impact of a strong inner-critic and the psychiatric disorders that come in to play, you can find a good article on that here.
Self-compassion involves understanding that failure is a part of life and treating yourself with empathy when it comes to personal failures, shortcomings or painful situations in life. Understanding that failure is part of the human experience and gives rise to a greater appreciation for humanity and the human condition. Building the skills for self-compassion will give you greater resilience in life and promote psychological wellbeing plus it will feel better to you once you get on the path of self-compassion.
You want to free yourself up from worry, fear, anxiety, depression and all of the negative emotions so I hope you will join me for a Year of Freedom stepping into love, peace, happiness, and all of the good stuff life has to offer and while you are doing so you can enter to win free prizes until July 2021. I want you to have a happy life filled with love, joy, happiness, freedom and that is possible for you with growth and development. Why not?
15 Years in: My Journey into Self-Compassion
My journey into self-awareness started when my Mom gave me a book on assertiveness when I was in high school, which was amazing and changed my life for the better. Thus, I began my interest and love for personal growth and development, which continued in college with the counselor education course required to be a resident assistant (R.A.) and has never stopped. The issue of a lack of self-compassion was only raised about 15 years ago and it was a shock. I had never thought about the fact that I was hard on myself – an extremely common phenomena I hate to say.
Once I became awake and aware to the fact that this was an area I needed to grow and develop I started by asking my three young children to help me notice when I said or did things that might show that I was not being kind to myself. I think we were in the car when I asked for their help on this at the tender ages of 8, 6 and 4 years. Well, we had not gotten far in our car ride before one of the kids quipped up – Oh, I think that you are being hard on yourself! Oh my. Some moments in life are just memorable. Over time, my children were very helpful in pointing out when I was being hard on myself.
Of course, I also talked to my adult friends about this as well and at least one or two of them took on looking at this area for themselves. While I can’t remember every single detail of the process of building self-compassion, I can tell you that for me it was a gradual process starting with me waking up to the fact that I lacked self-compassion and followed by my commitment to be kinder to myself.
After all, I was very compassionate with other people. Why not be compassionate with myself? Having mastered and built the skills in the area of self-compassion, I can easily say that this is extremely freeing, valuable in untold ways for physical and mental health, and something that I recommend strongly. Put this on your list of things to grow and develop because you will never regret learning self-compassion.
With self-compassion under my belt or in my proverbial toolbox it is easier to recognize when people I know are being hard on themselves. It provides for a good conversation with most people. Yes, if you can be compassionate with other people, why not be compassionate with yourself? There is no good reason not to build the skills of self-compassion and there are too many reasons why skipping over this skill set will be extremely bad for your mental health.
Obstacles to Self-Compassion
Controlled by negative emotions like shame, sadness, etc.
Feeling like you are not good enough
Feeling too overwhelmed with life
No experience or role model of self-compassion
Low emotional skills or abilities
Trauma – past or current
Viewing it as a selfish idea or concept
Childhood maltreatment or abuse
Mental health issues like psychopathy, antisocial personality disorders, borderline personality disorders, narcissistic personality disorders, and more
Viewing it as weakness
Having trust issues
Negative thinking or pessimism
Very strong inner critic
Viewing it as some kind of failure
Benefits of Self-Compassion
Increased personal initiative
Increased curiosity and exploration
Builds personal strength
Provides peace of mind
Lower levels of anxiety and depression
Improves body image
Provides greater life satisfaction
Strengthens mental health
Increases motivation to improve oneself
Better able to face life
Activates oxytocin – the love hormone making you feel safer and secure
Greater sense of humanity
Negative Effects of Self-Criticism
Can lead to psychopathy
More interpersonal problems
Associated with loneliness
Associated with depression
Associated with a lack of intimacy
Associated with increased likelihood of rejection
Associated with marital dissatisfaction
Associated with eating disorders
Predictive of anxiety disorders and phobias
Associated with PTSD
Suicide Warning/Mental Health Waiver
If you have any thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911 immediately. Please call someone, tell someone or post it on social media and ask for help right now! We have more people suffering from depression, anxiety, and negative emotions than ever before, which means that you are in good company. I am asking that you take a specific action if you are feeling suicidal or that harming yourself because your life matters more than you realize and because there is help available to you. I am not a licensed mental health professional or in the field of medicine. You should get your medical advice from a licensed medical professional. Although my posts are research and experience based, they do not constitute medical advice since I am not a medical professional in any capacity.
Steps to Developing Self-Compassion
Claim that you are hard on yourself. Just own it. Claim it. Owning it gives you power over your inner-critic. Claiming it provides the steppingstone for change. And this is something to change as soon as you can.
Ditch any shame or embarrassment about it. When we live in a world where most people lack self-compassion there is no reason to be ashamed or embarrassed about it. It is how people are raised – to be hard on themselves.
Acknowledge this is an area to change. With an understanding that developing self-compassion is extremely important for your mental health as well as resilience, happiness, and other health benefits that should nudge you into the space of recognizing that this needs to change.
Tell people you are working on this area of your life. Yes, you can tell people that you are working on growing your self-compassion. Why not? When I am working on growing new skills in an area of life, I have found it to be immensely helpful to let my friends know what I am working on because they will support me.
Create a TEAM of friends to work on this with you. You could create a team, which I highly recommend, and make a fun journey out of this process. I mean you could do that. Operative word here is could. I am a fan of teams and working in groups for so many reasons.
Become awake and aware to your verbal statements and internal thoughts. Until you are awake and aware of how much time your inner critic spends condemning you, shaming you, or making you feel bad – you won’t have the opportunity to really make a difference with self-compassion. You really have to pay attention to what you say out loud and what you are thinking. We live in a world where too many people are not self-aware and lack emotional intelligence to understand what is happening with their own emotions.
Make a list of your strengths or good qualities. I am not kidding. Write down your strengths and good qualities as a human being. Look at it. Let it sink in.
Begin the practice of appreciating your goodness as a person and your strengths. You want to begin to practice the skill or habit of appreciating your goodness and good traits or strengths. This will go a long way to help reduce the air-time that your inner critic gets.
Use affirmations or visual signs to help rewire your brain. Affirmations can help rewire your brain using the scientific principle of neuroplasticity of the brain. Use affirmations and visual signs to help create new pathways in your unconscious and subconscious mind, which overtime will help.
Use psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy if needed. There should be no shame or embarrassment to use psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy to help you develop self-compassion or deal with your issues for that matter.
Reward yourself for small victories. I am a huge fan of using a personal reward system because change can be hard. Rewards can help you stay motivated while you are working on establishing new habits and skills.
Get to work on growing yourself in other areas.Personal growth and development is the road to access a happier, healthier and more satisfying life. Why not? What else are you going to do with your time? Watch TV? Sure. You can do that. You could also spend a little time having fun improving your life.
Boost your self-care right away. I am a huge fan of self-care and this is a foundational skill set to living a happy and healthy life. There is no time like the present to implement self-care practices, which are guaranteed to improve your health and help you feel better.
Practice or grow your assertiveness skills. Having assertiveness skills will help you in every area of your life including feeling better about yourself. It can also help you have a better outcome for any difficult conversations you have to have in life.
Catch yourself not being kind to yourself and get back in the game. When you are learning new habits, practices and skills you will catch yourself here or there back in old habits. Once you catch your inner critic talking – get right back on track to practicing self-appreciation and self-compassion.
Notice how it feels to be kind to yourself – really notice. It really feels wonderful to be kind to yourself. As you begin to take on the practice of self-compassion, notice how it feels. I mean really notice. That will be helpful to keep you on the journey to building skills and habits in this area.
Prayer or meditation can be helpful. When you are working on developing new attitudes, beliefs, skills, habits or practices – prayer or meditation can be helpful in calming your mind and helping you focus or get grounded.
Being present – right here, right now – can be very helpful. This is extremely valuable for many reasons. Being present has so many benefits. It will definitely help you get away from the past and hopefully your inner critic.
Be patient. Developing self-compassion is a process that takes time. It is a journey that typically does not happen quickly. Have patience and keep at it. This is too good and too juicy to skip over.
Call to Action
How compassionate are you with yourself? Are you kind and gentle or loving with yourself? Are you ready to take on growing and developing self-compassion? What do you need to be supported in this process? How can I help you get there? Who do you know that could use a dose of self-compassion? Are you willing to share this post with them to help them? Please let me know how I can help you be more self-compassionate in the comment section. I want you to have an amazing life. Let me help you!