It’s not uncommon to be your own harshest critic. However, in psychology, the concept of self-compassion stands as a gentle reminder that it’s OK to be kind to ourselves, to embrace our imperfections, and to acknowledge that, just like everyone else, we’re wonderfully human and beautifully imperfect.
But let’s delve deeper. What exactly is self-compassion, and how can it be differentiated from self-indulgence or self-pity?
Self-compassion – what it is vs what it isn’t
In the simplest terms, self-compassion is about treating yourself with the same warmth, understanding, and kindness that you’d offer a friend who’s going through a rough patch or facing a challenge. It’s like giving yourself a hug when you need it most and acknowledging that it’s OK to be a work in progress.
Self-compassion is about reminding yourself that you’re human – and that mistakes are intrinsic to the human experience.
But self-compassion extends beyond self-acceptance. It’s an active process of extending warmth and understanding towards yourself – especially in the hard times. It incorporates mindfulness so that feelings are neither suppressed nor exaggerated.
Self-compassion isn’t about avoiding responsibility or indulging in self-pity. It’s about striking a balance. Making a commitment to be kind yet accountable, gentle yet resilient, and compassionate yet empowered.
How to practice self-compassion
When you’re feeling down or things don’t go as planned… How often do you wrap yourself in a blanket of kindness or allow yourself the space to truly feel your emotions?
Enter the Self-Compassion Break… It’s a technique that involves three steps designed to help you pause, breathe, subdue your inner critic and build a more compassionate relationship with yourself. It’s about stepping aside from the constant chase and taking a moment to be your own friend.
Step 1: Take a mindful moment to acknowledge your suffering
Pause for a moment
Feel the feels – pay attention to any emotions you’re experiencing. Anxiety, sadness, frustration…
Observe your thoughts – what thoughts are you having? Observe them without judgement.
What do you feel in your body? – If there’s physical discomfort, don’t shy away. Lean into the sensations.
Step 2: Embrace our shared humanity
Remind yourself you’re not alone – we can sometimes feel very alone in our suffering but feelings are what makes us human. Experiencing a wide range of emotions is simply part of the human experience.
A shared experience – every expression of emotion, whether it’s a tear or a smile, underscores our connection to others. It highlights a universal experience of highs and lows, reminding us that we’re part of a broader narrative where support and understanding are always within reach.
Step 3: Extend Kindness to Yourself
Offer yourself words of kindness – try saying things like, “I’m here for you”, “This is so hard but you’ll get through it”.
Acts of love – do something kind for yourself. It could be as simple as making yourself a cup of tea or going for a walk in the park.
Soothing touch – sometimes, a simple hand on the heart or a hug can communicate understanding and support more effectively than spoken words.
Adopting self-compassion isn’t about a complete overhaul overnight. It’s more like taking a step-by-step journey into getting to know yourself better. With every step, there’s a chance to see both your rough edges and your shiny bits, and to greet them with acceptance. Gradually, you’ll foster a friendship with yourself that’s built on both understanding and kindness.
If you’re interested in building a deeper, more compassionate relationship with yourself, you might like to consider starting Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT). CFT offers a blend of tools and understanding that’s all about helping you to be kinder to yourself, to quieten down your harsh inner critic, and to build up a stronger, more caring sense of who you are. It’s about giving you the skills to be your own best supporter.
Alternatively, you can join our Compassionate Mind Training Group, where you’ll meet and grow alongside others who share your desire to foster a more compassionate self. Our carefully structured course is packed with over 20 varied experiential practices and exercises, all designed to nurture your “compassionate mind.” As each session progresses, it thoughtfully builds upon the last, ensuring that by the end of our time together, you’ll walk away with a personal toolkit of strategies to support you in your day-to-day life. Join us in cultivating a kinder mind, together.