Self-compassion isn’t that different than having compassion for others. My favorite definition of self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would a dear loved one.
There are 3 basic elements of mindful self-compassion: mindfulness, self-kindness and common humanity.
In order to have compassion, either for yourself or for others, you have to first recognize and notice that someone is struggling (or in this case, yourself). That’s mindfulness!
Rather than ignoring your own difficult feelings, you must acknowledge that suffering. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, without judgment. See if you can name the experience or the strongest emotion that is coming up to yourself.
Then, open your heart to the suffering in order to feel warmth and understanding.
Compassion literally translates as “to suffer with”.
We can offer understanding and kindness when we mess up, instead of harsh criticism. Self-kindness is the meaty part or the content of the self-compassion work, where we actively treat ourselves with kindness rather than pity or judgment.
This might sound like instead of beating yourself up or telling yourself to “suck it up”, pause and say something like:
“This is really difficult right now. What do I need in this moment to offer myself kindness?”
The third element of mindful self-compassion is Common Humanity: the understanding that making mistakes and suffering is a normal part of being human. Instead of thinking “Oh poor me, why do bad things always happen to me?”. You recognize that “Suffering is a part of being human. It’s okay to make mistakes as I’m human”.
Many people mistakenly believe that self-compassion = self-indulgence. You might think that self-criticism “motivates” you. Spoiler alert: this is a myth!
Research by Dr. Kristin Neff at the Center for Self Compassion shows that those with more self-compassion, are more likely to try new things, as they are less afraid to fail! They also have lower rates of depression and anxiety and higher self-esteem.
Self-compassion is about being kind towards oneself, especially when confronted with difficult experiences and personal shortcomings. It’s about embracing the fullness of your human experience, not about striving for perfection.
My personal self-compassion mantra: “You are enough. You are doing enough.”