Compassion is defined as sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress along with the desire to alleviate it. Self-compassion is the same idea, but applied to ourselves.
If a friend or loved one came to you and said ‘I just made a big mistake at work’, would you be critical and respond by calling them an ‘idiot’? No? If you choose to be kind to them, you should also treat yourself with kindness when you’ve made a mistake.
What is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is the practice of being kind and loving toward ourselves; being sympathetic, understanding and sensitive to our personal emotions. It is accepting and acknowledging that our emotions are a common human experience. Self-compassion is different to self-pity, self-indulgence, or arrogance.
Self-compassion guru, Kristin Neff, encourages us to honour and accept our humanness. Neff’s idea is that we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, and can be frustrated in life. These things make us human.
Neff encourages us to be kind to ourselves, instead of embracing personal criticism or ignoring personal pain.
Research shows that people with self-compassion have better psychological health than those who lack it.
How do we foster self-compassion?
Kristen Neff believes self-compassion consists of three core components: kindness, common humanity and mindfulness.
If we break self-compassion down into these three elements, we can figure out how to make some changes in our behaviour.
1. Self kindness
When we make mistakes or when we are suffering, rather than criticising or pretending we aren’t suffering, we need to recognise that we aren’t perfect and that all humans will struggle at time. Constantly being frustrated, angry or for ‘not coping’ leads to more stress and pain.
2. Human experience
It’s easy when we are suffering emotionally to think that we are the only ones who feel this way. Instead, we ought to be aware that others around the world may be experiencing the same issue or pain. For instance, being bullied is not unique – and it’s possible to find a solution or the strength to end the bullying in this digital age by Googling for answers or techniques in how to deal with bullies. Seek help from your network, friends or family – and they may also be able to share ideas, solutions and stories.
Mindful self-compassion is the art of being able to acknowledge and accept our negative emotions (and subsequently, ourselves) in a loving non-judgmental way. That is, we need to neither ignore our pain and suffering (suppress) or over identify with it (exaggerate). Being aware, in the moment, of your thoughts and feelings and accepting them for what they are encourages us to acknowledge these emotions, without struggling against our painful experience.
If you find yourself struggling in a way that disrupts daily happiness, if you have low mood or decreased motivation, please contact us at Strategic Psychology to arrange for an appointment with a psychologist. Psychological intervention and counselling are ways we can help you live your best life.
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