We are our own worst critic. Unfortunately, for many, that phrase is all too true. In a world where our every move can be documented, and a society where “busy” is the gold standard, we could all use a kind word, especially from our internal monologue. Those kind words are sometimes referred to as self-compassion.
Dr. Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as having three parts: self-kindness not self-judgment, common humanity not isolation, and mindfulness not over-identification.
People who are kind to themselves, rather than judgmental, approach failures and difficult times with sympathy and a gentleness, knowing that setbacks are inevitable. When we become rigid, frustrated, and critical, our stress levels rise and our overall health suffers.
Being self-compassionate also involves recognizing that pain, suffering, difficulty are all part of the human experience; we are not alone in our troubles, and it can be beneficial to take solace in that fact. While your experience may be unique in many ways, know that you are not the only one with a difficult path ahead and that difficult times are temporary.
Finally, mindfulness can create a sense of emotional balance — acknowledging and appreciating both the highs and lows in life, while not allowing those emotions, especially the negative, to be all-consuming. We cannot ignore our emotional experiences; instead, we can benefit from observing them, recognizing them for what they are, and allowing them to pass.
Ultimately self-compassion is just like the compassion you’d show toward your friends, your family, your coworkers, and ideally anyone else you encounter in your daily life — identifying with their experience, sympathizing with their emotions, allowing them the grace to rebound. If you’re having trouble doing that for yourself, think of what you’d say to them if they were in your shoes, and give yourself the gentleness you deserve.
Written by Elise Browne, MS
References: Kristin Neff. (2017). Self-Compassion. self-compassion.org
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