Having more self-compassion has many benefits, and, in many cases, it is the opposite of what many people believe. I think there is a common belief that you will work harder and accomplish more if you are hard on yourself, but the research directly goes against that. For example, more self-compassion can make us more resilient and protects against developing mental health issues. We tend to go with the flow more and even when we have a failure, we have the ability to move ahead and not give up, so that we can achieve greater success. Generally speaking, those with more self-compassion levels tend to cope better during difficult times and take greater responsibility and our more accountable when a mistake is made instead blaming others.
What does self-compassion exactly mean? It has several components, the first is kindness. What does that mean? It means we should be kind to and take care of ourselves. We should talk to ourselves like we would talk to someone we care about. Many people have a very critical and shaming self-talk voice, which does nothing to make us be better people. Instead, it causes us to feel unworthy and increases our perfectionism (I will talk about this more in another blog) in order to stay one step ahead of criticisms from others and ourselves. The first step in creating more kindness is to develop our awareness so that when we notice that our self-talk is critical, we will question the accuracy of those thoughts and then reframe them by changing them or not accepting the inaccurate thoughts or beliefs. How does this look? The critical voice says you are such a failure, you can’t do anything right, after not getting the promotion you wanted. A kinder approach would be, we did really well and made it to the final two. We will do better next time.
The next part of self-compassion is recognizing that we all have a shared humanity. We all suffer, we all have losses, and we all make mistakes. It is the understanding that we are all human and sometimes we all come up short. It is what makes us human. We all have up and downs, it is a part of being human. We cannot always get what we want, and we cannot always be what we want to be either. It is the basic fact of life which we share with everyone else. It is a part of our human experience.
The last component is mindfulness. So, what does that actually mean? It means that we are present with what is going on in the moment. The good and bad things that happens to us are here but like everything, they will change. So, we do not get overly attached to what we are feeling but have an awareness and acknowledge whether we feel happy, angry, sad, or even overwhelmed. Our feelings in themselves are not good or bad. Feelings are just feelings, but we do not have to over identify with them, nor do we have to change what we perceived as negative to a positive emotion. I sometimes think with the push to positive thinking we feel we must numb or ignore what we are actually feeling. It can be difficult to sit with discomfort but if we do not let ourselves be swept away and try to push it way by numbing, we can acknowledge our pain and even comfort ourselves when needed.
It is extremely important to have compassion for others, but we must also include ourselves in our compassion practice because we too are worthy of compassion. If we can adopt a self-compassion practice it will have many benefits.
You can learn more about self-compassion practices by going to https://self-compassion.org/ [self-compassion.org] which is Dr. Kristen Neff’s site which has a lot of exercises to help build self-compassion as well as other resources and links. She has written many books on subject. You can also go to her site and test your self-compassion levels.
Christopher Germer. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. (2009).
C. Germer & K Neff. Self-Compassion in a Clinical Setting. (2013).
Kristin D. Neff and Christopher Germer. The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. The Guilford Press.
Kristin D. Neff and Katie A. Dahm. Self-Compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. University of Texas at Austin
Original Post June 30, 2021 on Karen Gentilman’s website Illumination Counseling Service.
Karen Gentilman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) practicing in the State of Idaho, working for 30 years with many different medical conditions both acute and chronic conditions, the last 20 years in neurological rehabilitation including brain injury, strokes and spinal cord injuries. She takes a trauma-informed, integrated and holistic approach with utilizing multiple modalities which is individually based while striving to provide compassionate therapeutic environment. Call (208) 266-4642 or email KarenGentilman@IlluminationCounselingService.com to set up a FREE 15-minute consultation. Visit Karen Gentilman’s profile page.