Why is it so difficult to show ourselves compassion? Perhaps you feel undeserving of it? Do you associate self-compassion with self-indulgence or self-pity? Self-compassion can be challenging, especially when criticism rather than compassion is or has been used to motivate and modify behaviour. While breaking free from the pattern of self-criticism can be difficult, self-compassion is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
Research shows that self-compassion is a powerful medicine, with a positive and restorative influence upon our physical, mental and emotional well-being.
The Benefits of Self-Compassion
Self-compassion enhances our well-being by deactivating our threat system, which is associated with feelings of insecurity, isolation, defensiveness and self- criticism. Instead, it activates our self-soothing system, with makes us feel safe and interconnected.
Being self-compassionate is difficult, especially if one has experienced trauma. In such cases, I highly recommend working with a counsellor. If you’ve struggled with unconditionally loving and accepting yourself, the good news is that compassion is a skill that you can develop. I found that to become self-compassionate, I had to reprogram my subconscious since being critical was my primary way of relating to myself. I did this by creating new tendencies that were self-compassionate in nature. Over time, my subconscious mental patterns become stronger and I reshaped my habits to become more self-compassionate. Slowly self-compassion has become my main way of relating to myself.
6 Strategies to Practice Self-Compassion
1. Acknowledge challenges and let them go.
Recognize your challenges. Don’t get discouraged or let yourself be defined by them. Instead, experience your challenges. Resolve to overcome them and see what great things you can accomplish in the process.
2. Remember that you’re exactly where you need to be.
When you connect with yourself on a deeper level, you may realize things about yourself that you weren’t aware of. We can get caught up in how we ‘should’ be feeling or what we ‘should’ be doing. This can lead to self-judgement. Trust that you are where you need to be.
3. Focus on self-growth rather than self-improvement.
Self-improvement emphasizes fixing one’s perceived inadequacies. On the other hand, self-growth looks at going deeper and accepting who you are and building upon that.
4. Be mindful of your language and your self-talk.
You may be accustomed to criticizing yourself without even realizing it. Start paying attention to what you tell yourself. If you’re saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a friend, then you’re not being kind to yourself.
Meditation changes the pathways in the brain. It encourages the development of self-compassion so that eventually it can become second nature. Aim to meditate 20 minutes a day to reprogram your brain.
6. Comfort yourself physically.
Comforting yourself with physical gestures activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the body. Try putting your hand over your heart or giving yourself a hug to provide comfort to yourself.
At first, it may be challenging or uncomfortable to show yourself compassion but with practice, it will start to feel increasingly natural. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you’re worth it.