It is easy to be tough on ourselves. We tend to self-criticize more than we realize. Research demonstrates that when we practice being kind and compassionate toward ourselves, we discover new ways to forgive ourselves, we become better at accepting our perceived flaws, and we show ourselves better self-love. With the right techniques, we can increase the habit of practicing self-compassion and find the freedom to ensure our lives do not become dominated by our struggles.
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion is defined as warmth and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate. We can express self-compassion in times when we would rather ignore our pain or punish ourselves with self-criticism. Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, despite feelings that we cannot control our surroundings or circumstances. In other words, it is a practice of mindful acceptance toward our moments of pain by embracing ourselves with care and kindness. Imperfection is part of the shared human experience and we are not alone. When we feel overwhelmed with distress, the key to helping ourselves, as well as others, is to be warm, caring, and understanding of our feelings and situations.
Giving ourselves permission to feel how we feel and validating the sensations of our body can be a great first step to practicing self-compassion. Feeling overwhelmed by difficult emotions can be a good indicator that we need to focus on our breathing and ground ourselves using acts of self-care, like having a cup of tea or petting our dog. When we meet our pain with self-compassion, our heart will naturally begin to heal.
In addition to giving ourselves permission to feel, we can practice self-kindness by providing ourselves with the tenderness and care we need when going through a tough time. Similarly, we can be more understanding and patient with ourselves by being tolerant of our perceived shortcomings, as well as seeing our difficulties as life’s way of helping us grow. We may even remind ourselves that others also feel inadequate at times, allowing ourselves to adopt our emotions with curiosity and openness when we feel sad.
Listening to our pain can give us insights about what we need to self-comfort, such as understanding that fear is also a wish for safety and loneliness is a wish for connection. We may long for freedom, respect, love, or understanding. Practicing the habit of self-compassion will reinforce our understanding of what we need in moments of distress, planting seeds of self-love that will help us grow and blossom.
Many of us are alone during COVID, listening to the small voice inside that seeks connection and safety. Develop the ability to practice more self-compassion to find more joy, pleasure, and independence during this uncertain time. If you need to talk to someone, text ‘TALK’ to 38255 to reach the crisis hotline.