What is self compassion?
– What is self compassion? –
Self compassion is our ability to be kind to ourselves. Self-compassion is often mistaken for selfishness (being self-centred) or selflessness (not putting yourself first). We are often more used to seeing and practicing compassion towards others. Compassion is showing loving kindness, consideration and care towards the difficulties of others. Self-compassion is compassion directed inwards. There is a wealth of research that self-compassion improves mood and overall wellbeing.
Psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff explains the practice and conditions of self compassion in the following short clip:
What are some of the benefits of practicing self-compassion?
- Improved quality of life
- Resilience during stressful life events
- Deeper understanding of others perceptions (empathy)
- Increase in physical and mental well-being
- Reduction in stress, anxious and depression.
- A greater ability to handle conflict
- Increase in resilience
What are some of the challenges to being self-compassionate?
- Our beliefs about self-compassion being wrong or unattainable can be a barrier
- We may not have experienced compassion from others so find it difficult to show ourselves the same kindness
- Perfectionism – believing that you must do everything perfectly and if you fall short of your own expectations then you punish yourself
- We may have psychological or physical challenges which have lead to us being more self critical rather than self-compassionate
How do I be more compassionate towards myself?
Self-compassion can be improved in a number of ways. Firstly, we would recommend making some dedicated time for self-care. Self-care involves nurturing activities which can help to relieve day to day stress and tension. Self-care can be as simple as making sure that you are eating healthy meals regularly and getting in at least 30 minutes of sunlight by going for a walk for your well-being. Self-care can include planning things to look forward to such as seeing a friend, going to a local yoga class or making use of annual leave to rest if you are working. Self-care looks different for everyone – find what feels good for you. It can be helpful to develop a self-compassionate box or bag with items in which make you smile when you are having a challenging day.
– Keeping a journal –
It may be worth keeping a journal so you can notice how you speak about/to yourself. If you are overly self-critical or negative towards yourself, it can sometimes be helpful to challenge this by thinking about how a trusted friend would react to what you have written. Then, write a letter to yourself which acknowledges the difficulties you are facing without judgement. You can do this as though you are responding to a letter from a friend rather than to yourself if you find it easier to be compassionate towards others. It is not easy to be self-compassionate when we are used to being self-critical. It can feel completely alien at first and requires some practice to become neutral towards yourself rather than judgemental. It is worth putting in the work to set the right tone of the relationship we have with ourselves. Our inner voice shapes our world, our view of ourselves and others. Self-compassion is something which can be learned and developed through out our lives.
– Developing a mindful practice –
Developing a mindfulness practice can help with cultivating self-compassion. The aim of mindfulness is to be present, observe our thoughts, feelings and environment without judgement. A mindfulness practice can start wherever you feel most comfortable. Whether that is trying a guided meditation while in bed or noticing the experiences of your 5 senses (What you can see, hear, touch, taste and smell).
– Mindful tea breaks –
Here at AMALAwellness, we are advocates for tea breaks! You can practice mindfulness by thinking about the smell, colour, warmth, taste and origin of your tea. Spend a few minutes focusing on each individual sense with curiosity. Mindfulness connects with self-compassion because our inner critic is invited to rest for a moment. It allows us to be open to our experiences with space to learn and grow. Mindfulness is a practice – it is not something to perfect. Mindfulness releases the body and mind from the unhelpful effects of thinking about the past or the future.
Recommended evidence-based self-help on developing self-compassion:
Guided meditations by Dr K. Neff:
We hope you enjoyed this blog. Please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!