“Don’t be too hard on yourself!”
“You are amazing.”
“You are enough and that’s all that matters.”
These are reminders we often tell our friends when they struggle with feelings of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-judgment. As friends, we take it upon ourselves to treat them kindly and gently, stay with them through panic attacks and anxiety, and reassure them all throughout that everything is going to be okay. I’ve always wondered why we can’t do these things for ourselves. Why can’t we treat ourselves the way we treat our friends in need? The thing is, we are our worst critics and somehow, we are convinced that we don’t deserve happiness, kindness, and sympathy. We find ourselves replaying past mistakes or berating ourselves for not being “good enough”. We live in a society that often reinforces the idea that we are not good enough, smart enough, or attractive enough- it’s just the way our consumerist world is.
When the noise in our heads gets too loud, when our internal critic is unrelenting and harsh, we must practice self-compassion. We treat ourselves with the same kindness, concern, and support that we would offer to a good friend and we love ourselves for the flawed human beings that we are. Self-compassion is a way of acknowledging our own humanity, imperfections, and limitations – it helps us feel calm, connected, and grounded.
Ways To Practice Self-Compassion
1. Starting with mindfulness
Mindfulness is a vital practice in ensuring that we stay grounded and calm, particularly when our internal critic becomes too loud. It involves paying attention to what is happening moment by moment and cultivating awareness and acceptance. One way to practice mindfulness is to take a few deep breaths and focus on the physical sensations of our breaths as we inhale and exhale. We try to notice any thoughts or feelings that arise and simply acknowledge them without judgment.
By adopting mindfulness into our daily lives, we are reminded that it is not necessary to judge ourselves harshly or ruminate about past mistakes constantly. Instead, we learn to acknowledge these experiences as part of who we are without letting them define us negatively. In doing so, some studies found that practicing mindfulness results in reduced depression levels, better sleep patterns, and improved overall mental health levels.
2. Practicing self-talk
The way we talk to ourselves has a powerful impact on our mood, behavior, and overall well-being. If we constantly criticize and judge ourselves, we are more likely to feel anxious, depressed, and unmotivated. On the other hand, if we use kind and supportive self-talk, we are more likely to feel confident, capable, and resilient.
One way to practice self-talk is to write down a list of positive affirmations that we can say to ourselves when we’re feeling down or stressed. For example, “I am capable of handling this situation,” or “I am worthy of love and respect.” Repeating these affirmations to ourselves throughout the day reinforces positive self-talk and cultivates a sense of self-compassion.
3. Practicing self-care
We often forget to show ourselves the same kindness we extend to others. It’s understandable, given that we’re programmed to be self-critical and set high expectations for ourselves. Yet, practicing self-care is critical for our emotional and physical health. When we feel overwhelmed or struggling with negative thoughts, it’s time to prioritize our well-being.
Showing ourselves kindness doesn’t mean neglecting responsibilities or ignoring important issues in our lives. It simply means we are allowing ourselves to do things that we actually enjoy and prioritize our physical, emotional, and mental health. Self-care can look different for everyone, but some examples include getting sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, and engaging in activities that bring us joy and relaxation. Incorporating these things into our daily routine will help us feel more energized, centered, and balanced.
4. Striving to avoid judgments and assumptions
It’s difficult to predict what will happen in life. Uncertainty is the only thing certain, after all. Sometimes, we can’t help but think of all the bad scenarios that could happen and we spiral down the rabbit hole, discrediting all our past achievements and our present capabilities. We essentially think ourselves out of happiness and worry about things that haven’t occurred yet.
When we judge ourselves or make an assumption about what we will do in the future, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to choose a different path. We close ourselves off from all other possibilities and force our mindset into thinking that there is only one way to go about things. In turn, we berate ourselves for the littlest mistakes we make based on our assumptions. Living an unassuming life will illuminate the possibilities of the future and allow us to pave a path for ourselves- a path forged by our successes, failures, talents, and flaws.
5. Recognizing common humanity
We all have our own struggles and challenges. It’s important to recognize that we are not alone in our experiences. When we acknowledge our shared humanity, we can cultivate a sense of connection and compassion towards ourselves and others.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, we can remind ourselves that others have gone through similar experiences and have come out the other side. It can be helpful to seek support from others who have gone through similar challenges or to read about others’ experiences to gain perspective and understanding. Building these relationships empower us to understand our shared faults and allow us to experience endeavors and challenges with the assurance that no matter how hard we struggle, we will make it in the end.
6. Practicing forgiveness
Forgiving ourselves for mistakes and failures is an important aspect of self-compassion. We all make mistakes and it’s natural to feel guilt or shame about them. However, holding onto these negative feelings can be detrimental to our mental health and well-being.
Practicing self-forgiveness by acknowledging our mistakes and failures and taking responsibility for our actions is the best thing we can do for our growth. We apologize when necessary, we let go of the negative feelings, and we move forward.
7. Practicing gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of our lives. When we focus on what we are grateful for, we shift our perspective from negative to positive. This can help us cultivate a sense of joy and contentment.
Making a daily gratitude list by writing down three things we are grateful for each day will help us see the good things that we already have. This can be as simple as having roof over our heads or a warm cup coffee in the morning. By focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, we feel more grounded and connected.
8. Setting boundaries
Setting boundaries is an important aspect of self-compassion. It’s important to recognize when we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed and to take steps to protect our well-being. This could mean saying no to an invitation or request, taking a break from social media, or setting limits on work hours.
Setting boundaries can be difficult, especially if we’re used to putting others’ needs before our own. It’s important to remember that taking care of ourselves is not selfish, rather, it’s necessary for our overall well-being and can help us become better versions of ourselves for others.
9. Practicing self-acceptance
Self-acceptance is about acknowledging and embracing all aspects of ourselves, including our flaws and imperfections. It’s natural to want to change things about ourselves that we perceive as negative, but it’s important to recognize that we are all human and imperfect.
Practicing self-acceptance by focusing on our strengths and positive qualities while wholly accepting our flaws and imperfections will encourage us to take on challenges with more confidence, knowing that as flawed as we are, we will always come out of the other side, stronger and more fulfilled.
10. Seeking professional help
If we’re struggling with self-compassion, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist can help us explore the underlying causes of our self-criticism and offer tools and techniques for cultivating self-compassion.
Therapy can also help us develop a better understanding of ourselves and our needs. It’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
It’s easy to get lost in our dark thoughts. The challenge has always been letting go of our past mistakes, emotions, thoughts, and aspirations to make room for growth and new possibilities; essentially, self-compassion allows us to do these things and more. The concept of “good enough” has always been abstract and if we measure our standards of being “good enough” against someone else’s yardstick, we won’t ever feel enough. In the end, what matters is how we view ourselves and how we care for ourselves through tough times. Our strengths, abilities, and talents may not all be acknowledged by others, but they will always be there.