Self-compassion means being gentle, kind and understanding with yourself; accepting that you are not perfect; and understanding that there is potential for learning and growth in every mistake you make (Neff, 2003).
Being critical of ourselves is a very common problem. It’s all too easy to blame everything that happens on our own lack of judgement, skill, knowledge, competence or experience. “I should’ve done this”, “I shouldn’t have done it like that”, “I’m no good at anything” “Things always go wrong for me”. Are any of these phrases familiar to you?
Even though self-criticism is common, it’s not to be overlooked. The ways we think of and treat ourselves have been found to be positively correlated with mental health and also to the way we treat others. To put it simply, we need to look after ourselves, so we can form relationships and look after others.
Practicing active self-compassion can help to reduce the insecurities that can lead to self-absorbed ruminations. Not only that but it can help to improve long-term happiness, wellbeing as well as performance in your career.
Below we explore some ways in which you can practice self-compassion as part of your everyday life.
Look after your body
As motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, said “Look after your body, it’s the only one place you have to live”. And when it comes to self-compassion, this is the best place to start.
Comfort your body with healthy and nutritious food each day. Ensure you are getting at least seven hours of restful sleep every night. And, exercise regularly, doing activities that you like and that bring you enjoyment and fulfilment.
In addition to these basic needs – make time for small daily rituals that bring you further comfort. Massage your own face or feet. Run a warm bath with a lit candle. Rub body oil around your neck and shoulders. These are all small things that will help to soothe and nourish your body instantly.
Stop punishing yourself for your mistakes
In order to stop being so self-critical, you need to accept that you are not perfect and go easy on yourself when things don’t go to plan. You are valued as a person by your friends, family members and colleagues because of who you are – not because you are flawless.
As humans, we all make mistakes. Some small, some big. It’s important you acknowledge and own your mistakes – it’s this process that often helps to gain power over the situation and helps to achieve calm knowing the problem has been identified. But, first it’s useful to assess whether you have in fact made a mistake, or whether you are just telling yourself that you have. Also, is the so-called mistake really that serious in the grand scheme of things? By analysing the situation and the severity of the mistake and what caused it, you can try to make adaptations for the future. This is an important step in helping you to move on.
A simple way to remind yourself to stop being so self-critical and to be kinder to yourself is to write yourself a little reminder note and stick it in your wallet or in a desk drawer. Write something like ‘I am worthy’ or ‘I truly value myself’ so that you never forget it.
Feeling gratitude is very powerful and highly effective in positive psychology (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Rather than constantly thinking about what you don’t have or what you wish you had, strength comes from appreciating what you DO have right now. Social media makes it far too easy for jealous thoughts to arise, but you can combat these thoughts by practising small acts of gratitude every day.
You might choose to write a gratitude diary each night before bed – try writing down three things that you are grateful for from your day – no matter how small or insignificant you feel they are. By focussing on these small blessings, you divert your focus away from the things you don’t have, which results in greater inner peace.
If you strive to always be in the moment rather than thinking about the past or ruminating about the future, you are sure to increase your mental awareness as well as reducing anxiety and stress about things you cannot control.
This doesn’t mean hiding your concerns or stresses in a closet – you can allow these thoughts to have their moment – but by allowing them to come, and then letting them go, this gives you the power to detach yourself from them.
Mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion (Kabat-Zinn, 2014). Mindful therapies include metacognition (awareness and understanding of your own thought processes), quiet sitting meditation, body scanning, and moving meditation (e.g. walking meditations and yoga).
There are many fantastic mindfulness apps available to help assist your journey. Many of these include guided meditations, bedtime stories, motivational audios and short mantras to focus on each day or in times of need.
Wherever you are on your self-compassion journey, I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch if you need some support by calling Patti on 07787 831 275. I offer a variety of therapies including Counselling, Hypnotherapy and Acupuncture, which I am more than happy to talk through with you in detail.