We’re often crushed when we fail to rise to the occasion. We believe we are inadequate when we feel unpopular. It makes us anxious to be considered mediocre. Self-compassion is not how most of us respond in those moments of perceived weakness or inferiority.
In fact, so much of our self-perception is performance-based that being kind to ourselves seems like letting ourselves off easy. We often think we should be pushing or punishing ourselves. Not giving ourselves space to fail or falter.
So, our whole lives, if we let it, could be cycles of building ourselves up and tearing ourselves down depending on the day’s successes and insecurities.
What would it be like to temper that inner competition and tendency toward self-comparison? Could you be kind to yourself, no matter what?
Self-compassion? What is that exactly?
Self-compassion expert and pioneer, Dr. Kristen Neff, noted in her book, Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind, that self-compassion, is a transformative process. And in undertaking this process you are actually learning to become your own best friend.
She writes that self-compassion is much more helpful than performance-oriented self-esteem building. Self-compassion is a practice of actively showing yourself loving-kindness. This bolsters the idea of inherent personal worth, which leads to a deeper sense of wellbeing. This state naturally draws others in, supporting more intimate relationships.
Dr. Neff notes three key concepts within self-compassion that help fulfill and transform your life:
Be as tolerant and sympathetic as possible. Resist the impulse to judge your life and choices so harshly. Get used to the idea that inadequacy happens. Self-kindness can be a relief valve on all that internal “be more, get more” pressure.
Relish your place in community and as part of an interdependent world. Failure is universal and there really is no reason to beat each other up for it. Life gets hard for all of us and we are stronger in groups. Loneliness and insecurity don’t have to wear you down when you recognize how vulnerable and interdependent we all are. Others are struggling too, show kindness.
When your self-esteem takes a hit, self-compassion is a kind, nonjudgmental witness to the good and bad of your life experience. When you’re self-compassionate you can live life without qualifications or disclaimers. Life is what it is. And it’s yours. No pressure. Enjoy.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
7 Tips to Promote Your Own Sense of Self-compassion
1. Flip the self-attack switch to OFF
What’s your struggle? Shame, negativity, or a painful or unresolved past may be messing with your self-perception. Self-compassion begins with a shift in thinking. Back away from all the “shoulds” in your life ( what you should do, who you should be, what you should have done…). Separate your bad decisions from any sense that you are bad. Reject labels and embrace your whole self.
2. Direct some sweet talk at yourself
Words always matter. How do you talk to and about yourself? How often do you call yourself “a mess”? When was the last time you noted that you were “an idiot.” Give yourself a break. Enjoy some of your own encouragement. Tell yourself what you want to hear (and maybe what you tell others) and mean it. You’re worth it all the time.
3. Forgive yourself
Forgiveness and self-compassion are a couple. Invite them over and get to know them well. When you make a mistake do more than accept responsibility for it. Forgive yourself too. When the mistake is a big one, this can be tough. The problem is that if you don’t forgive yourself, you will be fixated on “what you did wrong” and won’t be present enough to make better choices next time. Once you accept your own kindness, freedom and forward movement are much more possible.
4. Open yourself up and get great at self-care
Let yourself be excited. Allow yourself to focus on the things that capture your attention. It doesn’t have to be mainstream or anyone else’s idea of a good time. Self-compassion means you allow yourself to be passionate and find positivity, without shame or fear.
Along those lines, do as much as you can to take care of yourself, mind and body. Fill both with fresh, healthy, energy-building self-compassion.
5. Don’t predict the future
Judgment assumes a negative future. Self-judgment boxes you in with your own assumptions about what you think life can be. It makes life small and keeps you from reaching out or becoming all you desire. When you judge yourself or make an assumption about what you will do in the future, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to choose a different path or explore new relationships.
Don’t indulge limiting beliefs and behaviors, compassionately give yourself the chance to try regardless of the outcome. Remain open to the possibilities. Assumptions create unhelpful inhibitions and shut people out.
6. Make acceptance, not accomplishment, the key to your contentment
Take each day as it comes. Fully experience it. Eat, work, play, interact with all of your senses, fully aware of what you like and don’t like. Drop off the self attack and pick up your life. Notice how different you feel when you let go of the striving and spend your time just being. Accept yourself and the idea that some may not like it when you do. You’ll soon discover that the people who really count will enjoy you that much more.
7. Release external validation
Give yourself the gift of realizing that most of what you think is about you, really isn’t. People are usually not as focused on us as we think they are. It is self-compassionate to pay attention to the ways in which you feel validated, not how others validate you.
Self-compassion means understanding and accepting your authenticity. You are definitely flawed, possibly fun and more lovable than you believe. Who you are is fine, and maybe even amazing. You are worthy whether you come out on top or end up at the bottom of the class. Enjoy life and celebrate the process that made you who you’ve become and whomever you are going to be.