We know the voice all too well, the critical subtitle to our every action as we go about our day: “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” “You’re failing, big time,” or “Pull yourself together.” Sometimes, there are moments when we become acutely aware of how we speak to ourselves. But other times, the practice of self-compassion goes right out the window. Other times, the critical commentary might not be as obvious; all we know is that we are rushing from task to task with a general sense of unease and anxiety. Let’s say you could still get everything done that you need to. Wouldn’t it be nice to speak to yourself with the same respect, honesty, and kindness as a close friend or coach might when they want to support your growth?
This not only brings us closer to ourselves but also to others. Just like other human beings, we make mistakes, go through hard times, and experience difficult emotions that lead us to act in ways we later wish we hadn’t.
Self Compassion Has Three Components:
1. Self-kindness Instead of Self Judgment
Approaching our experience with non-judgmental curiosity and emotional warmth. A willingness to take care of ourselves.
2. Common Humanity Instead of Isolation
Embracing imperfection and making sense of our experience as a shared human experience. Recognizing and understanding others’ suffering.
3. Mindfulness Instead of Over-Identification
Turning our attention toward our thoughts and emotions as they are (whether positive or negative emotions). Not holding on to them nor dismissing them. This is especially crucial for negative thoughts.
How to Practice Self Compassion
The good news is, that compassion is something we can practice and strengthen. Here are some self-compassion exercises to get started:
1. Physical Touch
You can access the emotional and mental benefits of self-compassion at any given moment. You don’t have to set dedicated time aside for it. Let’s say you are in an exhausting meeting or in the middle of a difficult conversation. The simple gesture of intentionally placing one hand on top of the other forearm can activate the care system. Notice the warmth and gentleness of your own hand. Maybe apply a little pressure, just like you would touch the shoulder of a family member or friend who is suffering. If the situation allows, you can also keep your right hand, or both hands, on your heart.
This might be: “Phew, this is tough” or “This is a moment of struggle. We all struggle.”
2. Enhance Your Emotional Agility
One way of enhancing your self-compassion is to learn to label your emotional states. You can then notice what they are telling you about what really matters to you.
Journaling can be a good practice to develop a nuanced vocabulary of your inner experience. The more we become comfortable in recognizing feelings and needs in us, the more we can notice them in others around us. Getting in touch with this shared humanity is a crucial part of self-compassion.
3. Externalize Your Inner Critic
Our inner critic has its best intentions for us – maybe it wants us to be safe, to contribute, to succeed, to belong. Granted, the good intention is heavily veiled under the demeaning tone. When you think back to a moment when you were especially hard on yourself, can you conjure up the message you would hear? What is its tone? If you imagine your inner critic as a cartoon character or person, what would they look like? What’s their name? Bringing it out into the open can help us regain our sense of agency and reframe our message as a motivator, but not as the full truth about ourselves.
The First Step Towards Self Compassion
Despite our best intentions, cultivating self-compassion can feel like an impossible task. The language of inadequacy that our inner critic speaks is mirrored back to us at work and at home – do more, be more, be different, stand out from the crowd. Naturally, we will feel like there’s no time to take a break, no space for being kind to ourselves. This might be especially true if we had to make tremendous efforts to get to where we are today, including our Life stories, Identities, Social contexts, and Cultures.
When we are in touch with that, compassion for ourselves and our fellow beings can arise and expand naturally. This allows us to live fuller lives with more happiness and deal with painful thoughts with greater ease.
Article Credit: https://www.betterup.com/blog/self-compassion