Have you ever thought about whether or not you are kind to yourself? Most people have thought about whether they are kind to others, and believe it’s important to be kind to others; but while our mind constantly chatters away, we often take little notice of how it speaks about ourselves. It hadn’t even occurred to me until a few years ago that we should be kind to ourselves. It sounded a bit self-indulgent, self-pitying, or selfish.
Self-compassion sounds a bit airy-fairy, and it might be hard to see what the point of it is. So let me take you through what it is, and the benefits of improving your self-compassion as much as possible. In my next post, I will take you through some practical steps you can take to improve your self-compassion.
Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as :
- A sense of kindness, care, and understanding for yourself; vs self-judgement
- A sense of common humanity and understanding that we all suffer and it is part of the normal human condition; vs feeling isolated and cut off from others, and feeling like suffering isn’t normal, i.e. “why me?”
- A sense of mindfulness – being aware of the suffering that’s occurring and allowing yourself to experience it and acknowledge it; vs trying to remove or suppress the suffering, or go straight into problem-solving mode
- Self-compassionate people are less likely to get caught up in self-pitying thoughts and brooding on how bad life is.
- Self-compassionate people report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Self-compassion is one of the best ways to build resilience, our ability to cope with difficult circumstances. It can also help us cope with criticism and times when our self-esteem is low.
- Self-compassion is much more effective at motivating ourselves than self-punishment. This makes sense if you think about what motivates others – when we try to motivate children or employees or colleagues, supportive encouragement works much better than punishment.
- More self-compassion helps you to show more compassion toward others.
If you’re not really sure whether you are currently kind and compassionate towards yourself, there are a few things you can do now:
- Try to take note over the next few days what kinds of things your say to yourself, especially in situations where you make a mistake, or don’t handle a situation well. Note whether you speak to yourself kindly or harshly.
- You might like to write down some of the words you use when you speak to yourself. After a few days you will probably see a pattern emerging.
- Take note of what actions you then take. Do you punish yourself by working even harder or denying yourself some sort of pleasure? Do you allow yourself some comfort and time to recover, or indulge in something you love to do?
- You can complete a self-compassion questionnaire, which will give you an indication of how self-compassionate you are, and where that sits compared to ‘average’.
If you score low on the questionnaire, or feel this is an area you can improve in, don’t be discouraged. Self-compassion is a learned skill, and in part 2 of this post I give you some practical things you can do to improve.