Practicing Self-Compassion – How to Be Kinder to Yourself
by Erika Slater
How compassionate and kind are you to other people, especially family and close friends?
The world is full of random acts of kindness despite what the media dishes up everyday for so-called news – doing kind things for others just doesn’t make compelling news these days I’m afraid!
Would you go the extra mile for a co-worker or even someone you just met if they needed your help? I’m sure most people reading this would give the “shirt off of their back” for a complete stranger if they were in dire need of your help.
Interestingly, too many people don’t share the same kind of deep self-compassion for themselves. They’re quick to find fault in themselves and “beat themselves up” verbally when something goes wrong or when they make a mistake.
In reality, they don’t think enough of themselves to give the same kind of care, kindness and compassion as they would give to other people.
Self-compassion has been written about by Dr. Kristin Neff in her 2011 book titled; Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself – see resource section below.
Dr. Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main ingredients: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
This isn’t an article solely promoting her book, although I’d encourage you to read it to get a deeper understanding of the topic, but instead I’m going to focus on the self-kindness element today.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself as I want to discuss first why we wouldn’t be self-compassionate to ourselves, yet be compassionate to a complete stranger?
THE REASONS WHY WE LACK SELF-COMPASSION:
Growing-up in today’s society having self-compassion seems to smack of self-pity, being self-centered and even being selfish, childish and even irresponsible. We tell ourselves “how dare you treat yourself with kindness when there is so much suffering in the world?”
Now, I know we may not say those actual words to ourselves but the thought is there in one form or another.
So, our lack of self-compassion is learned. We’re not born without kindness towards ourselves. It’s a combination of events that happened to us, and its foundation can be found many times in childhood. Parents, family, friends can be influential role-models, and if we’re exposed every day to charity towards others but not ourselves then this “environment” can pollute our self-kindness pond.
Poor self-esteem often comes out of childhood and while this doesn’t mean an abusive environment nonetheless our lack of self-esteem can contribute significantly to our lack of self-compassion. The problem is lack of self-esteem leads to the belief you’re not a worthy recipient of your own self-care, or own self-compassion. This is very sad!
In some ways, we can develop a sense of masochism or self-martyrdom based on the irrational beliefs we created and perpetuated for ourselves that, “Good things happen to other people, just not me!”
And this is carried forward into our adult lives!
Being altruistic is an excellent quality – giving to others out of complete love, kindness and compassion without expecting anything in return.
This idea of self-sacrifice is a pretty refreshing prospect in a day and age where society has evolved into a time of entitlement, and ‘meme’ generation. The problem arises in so many individuals today, at least those who still believe in giving to others, that they themselves aren’t worthy of receiving any compassion in return.
I’m not talking about monetary reciprocity here, rather a sense of feeling wanted, needed or loved by others.
It’s interesting how people lack self-compassion when it comes to themselves but sacrifice freely, even get taken advantage of, because they don’t practice self-compassion.
If these individuals witnessed an individual being exploited or abused, they would most likely step in and help out of compassion. When it comes to them, they tolerate it, or just complain about it and then let it happen again and again.
So, you see we’ve become both intolerant when it comes to others being treated poorly but tolerant when we’re being treated badly.
But it doesn’t and shouldn’t be that way. The time to change is now.
BUILDING A LIFE OF SELF-COMPASSION:
If this is ever going to change, then it must start with developing a greater sense of self-respect for oneself.
This comes about by building self-compassion.
It’s never too late to build and increase your self-compassion!
Self-compassion comes from thinking better about yourself!
You have to believe you’re worthy of a great life, and deserving of great things happening to you. You have to be the catalyst to get this process started, and it comes about by changing your thinking. Remember thoughts lead to feelings and it’s time to have good feelings towards yourself.
Dr. Neff identifies five myths many people hold about self-compassion that stops them being in the right place to practice self-compassion. These are thinking:
- It’s a form of self-pity.
- It means weakness.
- It’ll make me complacent.
- I’ll be seen as a narcissist.
- It’s selfish.
In exploding these myths you’ll be able to build-up your muscle of self-compassion.
We all hate a whiner and so if you’ve a tendency to confuse self-compassion with self-pity then its understandable why you feel its not for you. But self-pity is all about feeling sorry for yourself. Self-compassion doesn’t attempt to tune out the bad stuff – it happens – but instead makes us more willing to accept, experience and acknowledge difficult feelings with kindness.
2. It means weakness:
Dr. Neff says, “… instead of being a weakness, researchers are discovering that self-compassion is one of the most powerful sources of coping and resilience available to us. When we go through major life crises, self-compassion appears to make all the difference in our ability to survive and even thrive.” Divorce is often cited as an example of needing to hold tough and not give in especially when the emotional toll can seem to be unbearable. Yet, studies have shown those who instead of holding tough and blaming themselves for what happened, look for the best to take away from the ending marriage, invariably have the strength to cope better.
3. It’ll make me complacent:
Here again Dr. Neff warns us about falling into this trap: “Perhaps the biggest block to self-compassion is the belief that it’ll undermine our motivation to push ourselves to do better. The idea is that if we don’t criticize ourselves for failing to live up to our standards, we’ll automatically succumb to slothful defeatism.” To be clear, we do need honest recognition of a failure or a mistake so we can do better next time, so self-compassion isn’t about sugar-coating or sweeping a mistake under the carpet. But by adopting an approach that cuts yourself some slack and looks to learn to progress, and figuring out what additional support you need to do better, then being complacent isn’t allowed entry into your feelings. Acknowledge your failures and misdeeds with kindness.
4. I’ll be seen as a narcissist:
The problem with how we view self-esteem today is it tends to be at the expense of somebody else. In order to give ourselves a boost in self-esteem we have to knock somebody else down.
Like the bully in the school yard who wants to appear the cool kid by bringing down the wimpy nerd.
As parents, we build up our kid’s self-esteem by telling them how great and special they are.
The fact is there’s always somebody who’s better looking, smarter, faster, stronger so, a self-esteem built up this way is destined for a crash as they begin to compare themselves to others and conclude they don’t cut it in every area.
Again Dr. Neff shares on this myth: “But self-compassion is different from self-esteem. Although they’re both strongly linked to psychological wellbeing, self-esteem is a positive evaluation of self-worth, while self-compassion isn’t a judgment or an evaluation at all. Instead, self-compassion is way of relating to the ever-changing landscape of who we are with kindness and acceptance—especially when we fail or feel inadequate. In other words, self-esteem requires feeling better than others, whereas self-compassion requires acknowledging that we share the human condition of imperfection.”
Dr. Neff adds: “Self-compassionate people are better able to remain emotionally stable, regardless of the degree of praise they receive from others.”
5. It’s selfish:
Let’s answer this myth by starting out with another question – Is compassion a zero-sum game? Is there only a certain amount of compassion you have to go around and if you use some of it for yourself does that mean you have less to go around for others? It’s a little like saying well I love my children but if I love them too much then there may not be any left for my spouse? Of course, this is absurd, because this way of thinking measures “love” as a finite commodity we can use up.
But what of those who were brought up to care more for others than themselves? Even society has reinforced it. If you’re a woman, then you know only too well this is true as we tend to have lower levels of self-compassion than men. For sure our compassion is higher as we tend to be more caring, empathetic and giving towards others. Just look at any group of volunteer caregivers and tell me what proportion of woman to men is? But when it comes to self-compassion we are surely lacking.
If we use compassion towards ourselves then we’ll be less compassionate towards others because its all gone, right? The fact is studies have shown when we’re kind and nurturing to ourselves then many of our emotional needs are met, and we are better positioned to focus and help others. It turns out being good to yourself helps you be good to others – what a pleasant paradox!
Once again, I’ll let Dr. Neff have the final say on this myth: “Therapists have known for a long time that being kind to ourselves isn’t—as is too often believed—a selfish luxury, but the exercise of a gift that makes us happier.”
So, the aim of sharing these myths was to both destroy them but also give you ways of building more self-compassion. I believe by having more self-compassion we’ll build the right kind of self-esteem naturally.
Some of you reading this may need more practical help than just reading an article and expecting tomorrow will be all different, and you’ll have oceans of self-compassion and never beat yourself up again.
Sorry, but at times you’ll still slip into treating yourself badly – I can’t give you a change pill.
It’s a journey and so will take time. But you can speed up the process by the use of hypnosis.
Hypnosis is one way to increase the positive and productive thoughts you need to lead to a greater sense of self and improved self-compassion. Your old negative thoughts have been allowed to fester and remain far too long. For example, smokers who have tried to quit more than once and “failed” sometimes “beat themselves up” believing they’re destined to always be a smoker. This isn’t true and they just need to have more compassion for themselves and continue to search for the right method to quit for themselves and set the right expectations.
Hypnosis can help change these instantly and help you create the self-compassion you deserve and will make you a more compassionate person for others as well.
If you decide to go down this path then your options are to see a local hypnotist who has embraced mindfulness and self-compassion in their practice teachings, or find a self-hypnosis session you can download to begin your new journey. If you’re interested in more information about my own online or in-office confidence and self-esteem hypnosis program then click here or contact me here.
When checking out self-hypnosis products look for a program that covers a number of areas we’ve discussed today. The self-respect session available at hypnosis downloads is one of their program sessions on this topic. You can check it out here >>>
Let me know how you enjoyed his article. Self-compassion is a topic I want to explore more and so look out for companion articles.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES RELATED TO SELF-COMPASSION:
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself – Dr. Kristin Neff
The Five Myths of Self-Compassion
Introduction to Mindfulness (4-part series)
The Eight Habits of Highly Confident People >>>
Stop Smoking Hypnosis Session – What to Expect for Success >>>
8 Random Acts of Self-Kindness
Library of Self-Hypnosis Downloads Products >>>
Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
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