We’ve all been here before. You’re waiting in the lobby for a job interview or preparing for an important team meeting. You felt confident earlier. But, as the clock ticks closer, you begin to doubt yourself.
Suddenly, your heart begins to pound. Your palms get sweaty. And, there’s an inner voice screaming that you’re going to bomb the interview or meeting.
Why do we treat ourselves like this? I mean, you wouldn’t be so negative with a friend or colleague in this situation, right?
While everyone has these experiences occasionally, a lot of us struggle with practicing self-compassion. And that can be incredibly detrimental to all facets of our lives.
What is Self-Compassion, and Why Is it Important?
In her research, Dr. Kristin Neff explains the concept of self-compassion as giving yourself the same level of care as you would give to a good friend:
“Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings—after all, whoever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
Dr. Neff also states that there are three components to self-compassion;
- Self-kindness instead of self-judgment
- Common humanity instead of isolation
- Mindfulness instead of over-identification
Some of you might not believe that this is such a revolutionary concept. But, being kind to ourselves is more important than you ever knew. For example, Dr. Neff has found that “self-compassion is very strongly related to mental wellbeing.”
In addition to being beneficial to one’s mental and physical wellbeing, self-compassion improves our physical health. Mainly self-compassionate individuals take better care of themselves through healthy meals and physical activity.
Moreover, self-compassion encourages a growth mindset and innovation. It’s also an effective way to conquer procrastination. And self-compassion gives us a clearer perspective of who we are and what our values are.
How to Practice Self-Compassion and Be Kind to Yourself
Want to treat yourself with more kindness? Here are eight ways to practice self-compassion.
1. Treat Yourself Like You’d Treat a Friend
“One good place to start is by thinking about how you would treat others that you care about,” advises Catherine Moore, Psychologist, MBA. “So while we can’t always take away others’ pain, we can validate its existence and provide support to help them get through it and grow. In this respect:”
- Let yourself make mistakes. Both self-kindness and humanity are rooted in two related ideas: “We are all human.” “But everyone else is too.” Rather than interpreting our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as who we are, we can forgive ourselves when we let others off the hook. It’s unlikely you’ll assume a friend is a bad person if they don’t answer your call. You can accept your flaws and remember that you aren’t alone in being imperfect by permitting yourself to be human once in a while.
- Care for yourself as you’d treat others. Similar to the previous tip, this is about understanding and empathizing with yourself, adds Moore. For example, you might physically pat a friend on the back or hold their hand when they are sad, hurt, or upset. As Neff describes, these are ways to tap into our own “caregiving system” to release oxytocin, which is beneficial to the heart. These gestures, along with tender, forgiving language, can inspire self-kindness, despite our reluctance at first.
2. Focus on Your Main Priorities
Not everyone will have the same priorities in life. However, if you want to be the best possible version of yourself and feel fulfilled, you should focus on the following areas;
- Your MBS. “Your main priority in life, without question, should always be your mind, body, and spirit,” Albert Costill wrote in another Calendar article. “Maybe it’s because we perceive this as being selfish that it’s often taken for granted. But, take a second and really think about it. If you neglect your wellbeing, then how can you get the most out of life, be productive, or be of service to others?”
- Healthy relationships. Those who feel connected are better mentally and physically.
- Dreams and aspirations. It doesn’t matter if this is your passion, purpose, calling, or your “why,”—if you want to have a fulfilled life, you need to identify what motivates you and pursue it. Understanding a little about your motivation will give you direction, as well as resilience.
- Self-development. Growing and learning are vital. You will become a more well-rounded person professionally and personally if you enhance your hard and soft skills.
- Time and productivity. Managing your calendar effectively will free up your schedule for your priorities.
- Happiness. Always make time for the things that you genuinely enjoy.
- Security. For example, having a steady income allows you to enjoy hobbies that make you happy.
3. Express Gratitude
Being grateful can be an extremely powerful feeling. The reason is that the strength comes from appreciating what we do have right now, rather than wishing for what we don’t. You can do this daily by taking gratitude walks or writing in a gratitude journal.
In focusing on our blessings, we speak from a kinder inner voice. In turn, this allows us to move away from the negative aspects of ourselves and instead turn our attention outwards.
4. Be More Mindful
Mindfulness has been found to decrease self-judgment. As a result, this improves self-compassion. Rather than judging or tagging, it’s essential to always be present at the moment.
Let your thoughts and feelings have their chance to be heard instead of silencing them. But, after you allow them to flow, then let them go without attachment.
5. Challenge Negative Self-Talk
Understanding how to talk to yourself when you make a mistake is essential. But, unfortunately, regardless of the size of the mishap, we tend to talk down to ourselves. And that can eventually devalue our self-worth.
As opposed to engaging in negative self-talk, practice positive self-talk by;
- Build your mental strength by using more realistic statements and distracting yourself from past regrets
- Have a failure mantra, such as “I’m imperfect, and that’s okay”
- Create a producer’s motto like going from “I have to” to “I choose To”
- Avoid all-or-none thinking
- Talk to yourself in the third person
- Look for silver linings
- Ditch the toxicity in your life
- Don’t get discouraged if you stumble. Instead, keep practicing until you get this right
6. Tap Into the Power of Affirmation
“We tell ourselves things we want to believe, and over time we convince ourselves that they are true,” writes Deanna Ritchie in a previous Calendar article. “If we allow ourselves to repeat self-deprecating thoughts, we will also start to believe these thoughts—even if they aren’t true. These thoughts weaken our wellbeing and can lead to loss of motivation, decreased self-worth, and even depression.”
“Self-affirmations are a direct counter to this debilitating mindset,” adds Deanna. Repetition of positive words will cause them to become ingrained in your subconscious. If you actively seek out these happier thoughts, you leave no room for anything negative to enter your mind.
Furthermore, studies have shown that people who use self-affirmations are more creative, less stressed, and have stronger problem-solving abilities.
Jennifer Williamson suggests the following six self-compassion affirmations if you need to escape the darkness;
- I am ready and willing to practice being more compassionate
- One heartbeat at a time, I can feel better
- Self-compassion fuels my passion
- I am here to experience the wonder of my own being
- My physical presence is worthy of celebration
- I answer pain with loving attention
7. Realize It’s Not All About You
“Rather than focusing on how we see ourselves, we often direct our attention to how we think others see us,” writes Dani DiPirro for Tiny Buddha. “It’s important not to do this for two reasons: (1) we don’t ever really know what others think, and (2) more often than not, others aren’t thinking about you.”
“Letting go of external validation is a very compassionate choice,” for DiPirro.
“It took me a long time to overcome this, particularly when it came to giving up drinking,” she confesses. “For a long while, it felt like everyone was judging me, either because they thought I had a problem or, worse still, they, themselves had a drinking problem and couldn’t understand why I was quitting.”
“As time passed, I discovered that most people didn’t care whether or not I drank—they just wanted me to be happy—and realizing this made it so much easier to do what was best for me.”
8. Make the Most of Available Resources
Aside from the search bar on Google, you have access to an insurmountable amount of amazing and often free resources. For example, there are podcasts like “Today I Am Good Enough,” “Fostering Self-Compassion,” and “The Process Podcast.”
Dr. Neff created ten different self-compassion guided meditations that are available for free. Self-compassion for caregivers, noting your emotions, and self-compassion breaks are just some of the topics covered. Besides exploring these resources, I recommend that you check out;
- Another great resource on mindful self-compassion can be found at Chrisgermer.com
- The School of Life and Alexandra Panzer, a volunteer teacher, created this lesson plan and video from TEDEd “to lessen the voices of self-flagellation and learn to appreciate the role of self-care in a good and fruitful life”
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
And, if you’re really struggling—please don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional.
By John Rampton