We can be the most caring and supportive friends, love partners, siblings, parents and still have a hard time being compassionate to ourselves.
How is it just easier to show kindness and compassion to others? What leads us to be so tough on ourselves? There is something telling me that often we mistake self-compassion with self-pity. I can already tell you though that the differences are huge!
Self-pity is perhaps something you witness around you all the time and most probably, what you have experienced in your life more than once. When was the last time you were upset or angry and started blaming yourself or others? Let us picture the following example. You are meeting a friend for breakfast, but your phone died and you have missed the alarm clock ring. You are now running late and start wondering: How did I forget to charge my phone last night? Why do these things always happen to me? Why did I agree to meet for breakfast so early in the morning? This is all my fault!
What is happening here or in a similar scenario? When we indulge in self-pity, we are stuck in our own thoughts and problems; we get wrapped in our own drama. We extend our own pain or anger losing sight of the bigger picture. How can you turn this around? This is when self-compassion comes into the picture.
Showing self-compassion helps you to create a mental space to gain perspective. It allows you to acknowledge your emotions and thoughts without ignoring or overestimate them. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself and ruminating on negative thoughts, you are being self-aware while shifting your perspective of the situation from a place of kindness and compassion.
Being self-compassionate is a strength you can practice. Here are 3 steps towards increasing your self-compassion.
1. Become more self-aware: We have recently talked about self-awareness, which is an important part of being more self-compassionate. Start by noticing your feelings, thoughts and behaviors without letting them own you. You are not your emotions and you are not your thoughts. When working on becoming more self-aware there are four things you should consider. 1) Try self-acceptance: Embrace your shortcomings as well as your strengths as they are part of who you are. 2) Practice mindfulness: Enjoy the here and now by living the present moment. Focusing on your breath and practicing yoga are quite helpful. 3) Let go of self-judgement: Try not to judge yourself immediately, give yourself some slack. 4) Explore different techniques: Positive affirmations or release statements are useful when it comes to empower your inner hero while tuning down the volume of your inner critic.
2. Shift perspective: We also talked about our need for connection. Gaining perspective is something we can achieve by shifting our mindset, not only about ourselves but also about others. It is sometimes important to understand how you are part of the big picture. 1) Let go of your need for approval: Stop looking for answers outside, you are good enough. Do not let others dictate what you should do or feel, rather search for the power within. 2) Reach out to others: It may sound contradictory, but it is again related to gaining perspective and seeking connection. When talking to others you realize you are not alone, allowing you to reframe your problems in a much bigger context and, at the same time, building your support network. It is perfectly fine to ask for help.
3. Treat yourself as your best friend: Often it is easier to be kinder to a friend than to ourselves. Next time you are going through a rough patch, imagine you are talking to your best friend. 1) Forgive yourself: Give yourself permission to make mistakes. You are not perfect; you are human. Forgiving yourself is not the same than not taking responsibility. You can let yourself off the hook once in a while and still take ownership of your flaws. 2) Care for yourself as you would care for others: Be understanding and empathetic towards yourself. Go ahead and pat yourself in the back, as you would probably do to a friend. Practice self-care by being kinder and more compassionate to yourself, especially when you start hearing that inner critic voice of yours.
Increasing your self-compassion is definitely within your reach. By becoming more self-compassionate, you increase your power within, learning how to tune in into your inner hero, rather than letting your inner critic prevail. Next time you are showing compassion towards someone you love and care about; remember to extend that same kindness and compassionate look to yourself.