For many of us, myself included, it is far easier to be compassionate toward others than it is to be compassionate to ourselves. Can you think of a time when someone has treated you with compassion? That is, can you think of a time when someone treated you with kindness and acceptance when you were hurting or struggling? Did that make a difference for you? I am guessing it made a significant difference for you because you are able to remember that event today.
If I were to ask you “Would you prefer to associate with kind, accepting people or harsh and judgmental people?” I think you are extremely likely to answer that you’d prefer to hang our with kind and accepting people given the choice. Now think about this: you are “stuck” with yourself 24-hours a day. How do you treat yourself? Is it with kindness and acceptance, or is it with harshness (critical self-talk) and judgment? Do you beat up on yourself or do you support yourself?
The fantastic news is that if you are, like many of us, harder on yourself than you are with others, you can change this! You can learn to be kinder and more supportive to yourself. You can learn to be your own advocate. Think about what a difference it would make to go through life with this supportive, accepting, and kind inner voice instead of the harsh, judgmental voice. It is possible!
Kristin Neff is THE self-compassion expert. She says self-compassion is no different than compassion. So if you find it hard to think about how to treat yourself with compassion, I suggest you think about how you would treat your best friend or a little kid that tugged at your heartstrings. Think about a person who is very similar to you, in a very similar situation and with a similar background. What would you say to that person to be supportive and kind and accepting? Now, say exactly that to yourself.
Dr. Neff talks about the 3 characteristics of self-compassion:
1) Self-compassion is being kind to the self rather than being judgmental about the self. Instead of the inner voice saying, “I sure screwed that up just like I mess everything up!” a self-compassionate voice might say, “Wow, that didn’t go well! I guess I’ve just proven I’m an imperfect human like everyone else. I sure want to do better next time.”
2) Self-compassion involves remembering we are part of the greater humanity. When we are not compassionate to ourselves, we tend to isolate ourselves. (See the example above).
3) A self-compassionate response is aware that we are not the same thing as our mistakes. When we lose sight of this, we lose the perspective that we failed at something and begin to believe we are failures instead, for example.
If you’d like to get a 6-minute overview to this topic, you can see Dr. Neff explain these three characteristics here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11U0h0DPu7k
Self-compassion has been shown to decrease depression. If you would like to learn to how apply self-compassion to your life, I invite you to give me a call at (816) 226-4678 or message me through the client portal. Think what a difference it could make in the quality of your every day life to turn your inner critic into your inner champion and supporter.