Written by Karen Pontious
Your mind immediately starts scrutinizing yourself every time you fail to finish your never-ending to do list. Lying in bed, you randomly remember some embarrassing moment you had when you were in high school.
If you’ve experienced any of these things, maybe you have an overbearing inner critic like me.
We rush to encourage our loved ones, our friends, our pets and even strangers on social media, yet we struggle to give ourselves the same support.
If the person we spend the most time with is with ourselves, shouldn’t we be cheering ourselves on instead of beating ourselves up?
Since self-compassion isn’t a common practice that we learn growing up in our society, let’s look at ways we can start to be more self-compassionate.
Why should you practice self-compassion?
Self-compassion helps us better understand ourselves and our suffering. This awareness has proven to reduce anxiety and depression. This is why self-compassionate people know they need to take extra care of themselves in difficult times.
How can you practice self-compassion?
Practicing self-compassion can seem tedious in today’s busy world. Especially since we often put our self-care at the bottom our list of commitments.
Self-compassion can take many shapes. Once we get in the habit of being more mindful with ourselves, we can improve our relationships not only with ourselves but with those around us.
Let’s look at various self-compassion examples, exercises and tips to get you started on your self-compassion journey:
What does it mean to practice self-compassion?
There are many ways you can practice self-compassion. Some may resonate for you, while others may seem like a waste of time.
It could be by using meditation techniques, saying affirmations, or simply just acknowledging how you are speaking to yourself. The idea is that you keep an open mind and see what method works for you.
Dr. Kristin Neff is a pioneer of the study of self-compassion and she highlights three important components of self-compassion:
1) Self-kindness vs self-judgment
Comfort yourself when you are struggling or going through a hard time instead of judging yourself for not being enough.
2) Common humanity vs isolation
Have awareness. Know that life is full of difficulties and suffering isn’t a unique personal experience but is part of the human experience. Isolating yourself makes your suffering worse, so try to be open to sharing your pain or failures with others.
3) Mindfulness vs over-identification
Acknowledge your suffering and learn to be able to sit with your pain instead of trying to ignore it. Give your vulnerable side attention and validation before trying to change or fix your pain.
What are affirmations and do they really work?
Affirmations are confident statements declaring what’s true.
Affirmations help you foster positive thinking by acknowledging what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. Affirmations may not be for everyone, but they are simple habit to adopt, especially if you struggle to show yourself kindness in times of darkness.
Here are a few self-compassion affirmations that struck me:
Nourishing myself is a joyful experience, and I am worth the time spent on my healing.
I now free myself from destructive fears and doubts.
My mistakes just show that I’m growing and learning.
As I forgive myself it becomes easier to forgive others.
I accept the best and worst aspects of who I am.
These affirmations were inspired from Louise Hay. If you’re interested in exploring more affirmation you can find endless inspiration at her website.
Meditation is known for its many mental and physical health benefits, but there are many types of meditations and reasons to meditate.
People often meditate to be more productive, to mediate anxiety and to the calm the mind. However, you can also use meditation to practice self-compassion.
No matter if you are new to meditation or a long-time meditator, these self-compassion meditation exercises could be a useful tool to help you be more mindful of how you treat yourself.
Here are three self-compassion meditation practices to try:
- Affectionate Breathing (21 minutes)
- Loving-kindness meditation (20 minutes)
- Self-compassion break (5 minutes)
Find more guided meditations here.
Another powerful self-compassion meditation technique to try is RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, Nurture by psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach.
“I am not looking to escape my darkness, I am learning to love myself there.”
— Runi Lazuli
“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
— Kristen Neff, Ph.D.
“If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not capable of developing compassion for others.”
— Dalai Lama
“You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
— Brené Brown
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.”
— Carl Jung
“How you love yourself is how you teach others to love you.”
— Rupi Kaur
Tips to start practicing self-compassion today
Be mindful of your self-critic. Instead of getting down on yourself for not being “good enough,” think about where you are in the present and try to accept yourself just where you are. The next time your self-critic goes on a tangent take a deep breath and pause.
Understand that failure is a part of being human. Embrace your failures as learning experiences for you to grow and adapt. Rather than sulking over your failure remember you are more than your achievements or failures.
Compassion begins with yourself
Our relationship with ourselves is a constant struggle. Being aware of how you cope with pain, suffering and failure can help get you started on your self-compassion journey.
Whether you keep an affirmation journal or listen to a guided self-compassion meditation you should make yourself a priority. Next time something goes wrong, pause before letting your inner critic take control and think about how you can show yourself loving kindness.
Karen Pontious is a professional communicator working on her dream to be a freelance writer and editor.
Her passion is intercultural relations and communication. She writes about relationships, immigration stories, gender norms, and mental health.