What is Self-Compassion?
As a psychologist, when I mention the concept of “self-compassion” to my clients, I often hear, “I don’t want to be conceited” or, “isn’t that selfish and egotistical?” It’s not uncommon for self-compassion to be misperceived in this way.
Self-compassion is a concept that stems from Buddhist thought. It explores the ways in which we can be kind towards ourselves in times of struggle, similar to how we can be compassionate towards others who are suffering. Self-compassion is a warmth and understanding that we provide for ourselves when we feel less than or experience pain. If we function from the perspective that suffering is inevitable, then it makes sense to be kind when we experience it, as opposed to judging and shaming ourselves. Self-compassion is also the understanding that we are mortal and therefore imperfect or flawed. Thus, we are encouraged to be supportive and understanding when (not if!) we make mistakes. A bad decision does not mean we are a bad person.
What are the Benefits of Self-Compassion?
Research has linked self-compassion to a greater sense of psychological well-being. More specifically, individuals with a greater sense of self-compassion feel more connected to others, experience happiness, and general life satisfaction. Inversely, low levels of self-compassion are connected to experiences of depression, anxiety, and shame.
Tips to Build Self-Compassion:
Positive self-talk or mantras. There was a popular YouTube video that circulated a couple years back of a little girl telling herself in the mirror (see link) that she is AWESOME. She demonstrates a great example of how we can remind ourselves that we are doing our best, and that we are deserving, worth it, grateful, etc. This can take the form of talking ourselves through a difficult time, or even a sentence or phrase that we repeat out loud “Keep breathing,” “anxiety is contagious and so is calm,” “don’t let yesterday take up too much of today,” or “choose purpose over perfect.”
Self-care/time for yourself. When I bring up self-care with clients, I commonly get push back that they wish there was more time in the day to go for a run, take a yoga class, visit with a friend, or take a weekend trip. Although all of these ideas or forms of self-care, there are also smaller ways to incorporate time for yourself. Time for yourself does not have to go above and beyond some of the things you are already doing in your day. For example, when taking a shower, work on focusing on the experience of being in a warm setting with the scents of your shampoo and body wash, instead of creating a to-do list or replaying a bad day at the office. Another example could be walking a lap around the office floor on your way back to your desk from the water cooler or bathroom. It can help to tap into things that are already part of your routine and tweaking them slightly to work for you.
Journaling. Journaling is a great tool as it can serve multiple purposes are the same time. Commonly used as an outlet for anxiety, depression, or even anger, you can also use a journal to center your thoughts. Ways to incorporate self-compassion in you journaling can be in the journal entry itself, or the way you interpret it when you read it over. Did you make judgements about yourself? Are there opportunities or ways to look at the situation differently or with more kindness towards yourself? You can also use the journal to record mantras that work for you. It is recommended to do this using a pen and paper instead of on a computer, tablet, or phone.
Meet with a therapist. It can be helpful to meet with a therapist to receive support when it becomes challenging to integrate self-compassion. Therapy provides a non-judgmental and an objective, empathic space to find the kindness and understanding. Our therapists work to do this with most clients, as it relates to most presenting issues and concerns. Feel free to call us today to get more information and to set up an appointment with one of our clinicians.