Dr. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself describes having compassion for yourself “means that you honor and accept your humanness”. Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us.
Open your heart
The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself and all your fellow humans in the experience of life”. Dr. Neff goes on to explain three elements of self-compassion – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Self-compassion involves being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or beating ourselves up with self-criticism.
Self-compassion means recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to just to me.
Self-compassion also requires a willingness to observe our negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity, so that they are held in mindful awareness.
Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. According to the Great Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
Research shows us that people who are more self-compassionate are…
- Less stressed – self compassion is a powerful antidote to the self-criticism and perfectionistic thinking that can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
- Happier – practicing self-compassion leads to more happiness, optimism, gratitude and better relationships with others.
- More resilient – self compassionate people bounce back more easily to setbacks and are more likely to learn from their mistakes. They also have the resilience needed to cope with stressful life events such as divorce, health crises, and academic failure, and even combat trauma.
In addition, self-compassion involves responding in the same supportive and understanding way you would with a good friend when you have a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.
For instance, I often use when making a mistake (and combining my strength of humor) is to begin singing, “I’m only human…”.
We all will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, mistakes will happen. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. The more you open your heart to this reality instead of constantly fighting against it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself.
Download the self-compassion questions and open your heart to your answers!