How well do you love yourself?
Have you ever given it much thought?
Growing up, self-compassion was rarely talked about or encouraged in our generation. And yet our kids are coming home from school with a clear idea of how to love and be compassionate towards themselves.
Don’t you think it’s time we did the same?
Where do you start?
First, we need to understand that having compassion for ourselves is not so different from being compassionate towards others. When we notice someone is suffering, when we see and consider the experiences others are going through, we have compassion for them and their situation. We are moved by their plight and have an urge to help, support, and show care for them. We put judgements aside and support rather than criticise.
How hard is it for us to do the same for ourselves? Quite difficult, so it seems.
But that’s only because we were not raised with the understanding that we do not have to criticise our actions or live in guilt, or that carrying on regardless when we are suffering goes against our need to love ourselves. Self-compassion is a skill we need to work on.
What is Self-Compassion
Having compassion for ourselves means:
Being kind and understanding toward ourselves when we make mistakes, feel imperfect, and when we’re suffering in any way.
Knowing we don’t have to do it all.
Recognising that being imperfect is a part of the human experience.
Knowing that life will throw curveballs and that we are not to blame.
Being gentle with ourselves when times are tough, when the daily routine wears us down or when our cup is empty.
Knowing that things will not always go our way and accepting this with kindness and sympathy.
To conquer this idea of self-compassion, we also should understand that the human experience is not in isolation. The past few years have emphasised that point. And while we are all in the same storm, but not the same boat, we can recognise that suffering is a part of being human. This is not an isolated journey. Others share your experience in their own lives, and because of this, our empathy and compassion for others can be high and vice versa.
There is a voice in our head, however and she goes something like this:
“No one understands me.”
“I’m the only person to feel this.”
“I’m no good.”
“What’s the point.”
“Why is this happening to me?”
It’s the voice of miscalculation, misunderstanding, exaggeration and ignorance, the voice of unkind thoughts that drives unkind behaviours. And boy can she be loud! She talks above everyone else. And she demands to be heard.
But there is a little squeak at the back of it all.
A small, tender and gentle voice.
The voice of compassion.
We need to hear her over the din of criticism and judgement. How can we make her voice loud, so we feel compelled to be compassionate to ourselves?
The Self-Compassion Voice
First, we need to recognise that self-critical voice. It shouldn’t be too hard. She can be pretty nasty in her own way. But the funny thing is, she’s also trying to protect us from making mistakes, jumping the gun, or not dissecting decisions well enough. But when that voice begins to negatively impact how we see ourselves, stops us from making decisions, and isolates us, we need to turn her off and find that little squeak that is our compassionate voice.
It takes time to silence our critical inner voice, so don’t expect a quick and sudden change in attitude.
When you hear yourself speaking negatively to yourself, thank your inner critic for her input, recognise that she is trying to protect or comfort you, and ask her to be quiet for a moment. When the voice quietens down, search for that little squeak and listen to what she has to say. You may have to listen intently because she will still be quiet, and you may not believe her just yet. But the stronger you get, the louder she will become.
To hear your compassionate voice:
Hear your inner critic first – What phrases repeatedly crop up? Are they necessary? Do they have meaning? Where are they coming from? We need to understand our critic to soften her voice.
Recognise the purpose of your critical voice. She is genuinely trying to help.
Silence your inner critic with understanding. Try not to be judgemental of yourself.
Reframe how you see the situation in front of you. What can you do to be more compassionate to yourself? What do you need right now? How can you help, love and support yourself?
Having Compassion for Every Part of You
Treat Yourself As You Would A Friend
How often have you talked on the phone with a friend who needed you? How often have you listened and been there for others? How often have you gone out of your way to show kindness to others? Treat yourself the same way you would a good friend.
Allow yourself to make mistakes.
Be understanding and empathetic to yourself.
Become more self-aware of your needs, how you talk to yourself, and what you actively do to love yourself. If it’s not what you need, refine your self-care.
Show yourself kindness by giving yourself what you need, such as love, acceptance, tenderness, and praise.
Understand yourself by genuinely listening to your thoughts and filtering out the negative comments that are hurtful to you.
Show yourself patience.
Accept your flaws and embrace imperfection.
Be unbiased, understanding, and unjudgemental about your experiences, especially your shortcomings.
Make It A Habit
This is a new way for you to look at yourself. It takes time for it to become an accepted part of your routine. Practice self-compassion daily by:
Comforting your body – eat well, get enough rest, take downtime when necessary, and exercise in a way that uplifts you.
Write – jot something down in your journal, write a letter to yourself, leave post-its on your mirror.
Encourage Yourself – recite affirmations, tell yourself something unique about yourself, be your own cheerleader.
Be Mindful – allow yourself to be in the moment, take in the world around you, and feel your emotions.
Most of us experience our inner critic loudly during our luteal phase, learn more in our blog post Dealing With Your Inner Critic