Kindness and compassion are often considered the most important virtues. But how often do we express these feelings towards ourselves? Is self-compassion something that we can learn?
You might have heard of self-compassion or self-love before. Maybe you aren’t sure exactly what they mean. Or maybe you just don’t know where to begin.
Don’t worry, we’re going to take you through a few tips and tricks to help you begin learning self-compassion for a more positive mindset.
What is self-compassion?
The idea behind self-compassion actually stems from Buddhist psychology. Self-compassion is really more about the way that you treat yourself than having high self-esteem or being confident.
Even the most compassionate people may find it hard to direct this compassion towards themselves. When things go wrong in our lives it’s easy for many of us to turn to self-criticism and to be hard on ourselves. Rather than lifting ourselves up we might feel dejected and beat ourselves up. In fact, it’s not uncommon for most of us to show others more kindness than we show ourselves.
Does this sound familiar?
Psychologist Kristin Neff was actually the first person to define the concept of self-compassion. She defines it as showing kindness towards one’s self by treating the self in a similar way that you would a loved one. This includes being gentle and supportive to yourself. A part of self-compassion also means understanding that none of us are perfect and that, as humans, we all make mistakes.
Kristin Neff outlines three basic components of self-compassion:
- Common Humanity
We'll go over these a little more in our 5 tips for learning self-compassion. When we begin understanding self-kindness and self-compassion it might be easier to start cultivating practices that can boost our self-love and personal growth.
Why practice self-compassion?
More and more researchers have suggested that there’s a link between self-compassion and better psychological well-being. They have found that being more compassionate towards ourselves can help improve our emotional intelligence, happiness levels, and make us feel more socially connected.
Those who are able to treat themselves with more kindness are also more likely to foster a better sense of self-esteem and may have less anxiety, feelings of depression, or fear of failure. This, in turn, has also been connected to promoting healthier relationships with others.
It can also help you steer your way towards your goals. If you are in the habit of taking on more than you can handle it’s likely that you will end up feeling exhausted. Self-care is such a big part of expressing compassion towards yourself, but if you’re too busy to make time for some “me time” you might see yourself headed towards burnout.
By working on establishing a better relationship with yourself, the positive impact of self-compassion will start to spread to other areas of your life.
How to be self-compassionate
Luckily, even if self-love isn’t something that comes naturally to you, it is possible to learn self-compassion.
There’s no one size fits all when it comes to self-love so we’ve collected a variety of different ways that one can learn to be more compassionate for oneself.
Here are our five best tips for learning self-compassion:
A lot of us may have heard the term mindfulness used, especially in the last couple of years or so. Mindfulness is basically a form of meditation where you focus on being aware of the present moment.
Don’t let the word meditation intimidate you. In simpler terms, mindfulness practice is essentially about bringing awareness to your feelings and senses without judging or interpreting the way you feel. It can be carried out using different techniques. For example, breathing exercises, guided imagery, or other methods.
Practicing mindfulness can help with managing negative thoughts, lowering stress levels, and relaxing the body. In fact, meditation practices have been associated with an improved attention span, better sleep, and a reduced chance of experiencing burnout.
Dedicating time to be aware of your emotions without judgment can also help with self-compassion. It sets up a way of experiencing our feelings and simply accepting them, which is a big part of learning to be compassionate towards yourself.
Journaling can be a helpful tool for expressing your feelings and emotions, particularly if you find it hard to say them out loud. If you aren’t in the habit of journaling on a regular basis, it might feel a little strange at first. But if you’re able to make it a part of your routine, you might find that it gets easier the more you do it.
You also don’t need to write an entire novel every time you sit down to write. Try to take a moment at the end of the day to reflect on the events of the day. It would be ideal if you’re able to find a quiet moment where you can be alone without distractions or interruptions.
To make your journaling more about self-compassion try to write down anything that happened during the day that made you feel bad. Or it could be something that you judged yourself for or that made you feel ashamed or embarrassed.
Once you’ve written these down, try using mindfulness to bring more awareness to the emotions that the actions or events caused. They might be painful or difficult to write down but try to do so without judging yourself for them. Instead, try to accept how you felt at the time and remind yourself that you are only human. Finally, try to jot down some kind words for yourself. It may be helpful to use a gentle, comforting tone as you think about your words Another useful tip is writing down something that you would say to your best friend if they were in a similar situation.
Adapt your language
Don’t just write down your kind words, say them! Whether journaling sounds like your thing or not, another great way to learn to be more self-compassionate is to talk to yourself in a kinder way.
To cultivate more compassion for yourself, it’s helpful to start adapting your language. Think about shifting your tone to one that leans towards acceptance and understanding then shame and self-criticism. Try to treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend or loved one.
The next time you find yourself in a difficult life situation, ask yourself what you say to a good friend in the same scenario? Really think about the words that you would use, and the tone you’d take. Now try to respond to yourself using the same compassionate language.
Reach out to others
It’s more than okay to take time for yourself when you need it. But also remember to reach out to others when you need some extra encouragement and support.
Speaking to a friend, family member, or someone else you trust about your struggles can help you work through them. It might also serve as a friendly reminder that you are not alone. Perhaps they’ve also felt the same way or been in a similar situation before.
Even if they haven’t, remembering that you’re not alone is generally a useful way to feel connected to humanity on a broader scale. Generally speaking, whatever you might be experiencing is most likely an experience that is shared by millions of other people around the world. Self-compassion means realizing the common humanity in all of us and trying to acknowledge that we all make mistakes. Recognizing that none of us is perfect might help you change your perspective and cultivate more compassion for yourself.
If you feel that you can’t get the support that you need from friends or family, it could be beneficial to seek professional help. If there is something specific that you’re dealing with, perhaps there is a support group you could join. Working with a therapist or coach could help you get your self-compassion on track.
Nourish your body
As you focus more on taking care of your mind, don’t forget about looking after your body too. There’s such a deep connection between physical and mental health and wellness so it’s important to look after both aspects. As you learn self-compassion, don’t forget to also be compassionate towards your body.
Making small changes in your daily routine can help you feel better physically. This, in turn, can help improve your mood, help you relax, and lower your stress levels. For most of us, it’s easier to treat ourselves with more compassion when we’re feeling great physically.
Give yourself a dose of self-love and compassion by nourishing your body. Comfort both your body and your mind by doing something that feels good. Eat something healthy and delicious. Go for a walk or light jog. Do a workout if that’s what you love doing. Or simply lie down and rest for a little while if that’s what your body needs.
Making sure that you get enough quality sleep also helps to improve your physical wellbeing. If you have trouble sleeping, there are many things you can try to improve your sleep. For example, adopting healthy sleeping habits.
Some people also use CBD products to promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Generally, many people find they are able to sleep better if they are calm rather than stressed.
Not sure if you’re getting enough sleep or not? Check out our blog post on 8 Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation You Shouldn’t Ignore.
And there you have it, our five tips for learning self-compassion. And remember, it’s more than okay to start out slowly. Self-compassion isn’t something that most of us can learn overnight. It can be a long, sometimes difficult, process but it’s definitely worth it.
All the best,