It’s Time to Start Giving YOURSELF the Love that You Deserve

We can be our own worst critics at times. Am I right? Why is it that we can be there for a friend and offer kindness, advice, support, and compassion but when it comes to ourselves, we do the exact opposite? We beat ourselves up over little mistakes or engage in harsh negative self-talk by saying “I’m so stupid…I’m a loser…I’m not good enough.” But would we ever say these things to a close friend or family member? Probably not! Now is the time to break the vicious cycle of negativity and start exercising some self-compassion.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
– Buddha

In a nut shell, self-compassion is about offering yourself the comfort, care, kindness, and understanding you would offer to others when they make mistakes, fail, are having a difficult time, or notice something they don’t like about themselves. In order to have compassion towards others you must first acknowledge their suffering and then when you notice your heart feeling moved by this suffering you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help in some way. Rather than judging them harshly, you offer kindness and understanding and rather than mere pity, you realize that suffering and imperfection are a part of the shared human experience.

The word compassion literally means to “suffer with.” SELF-compassion entails acting the same way towards yourself in difficulty times. Instead of ignoring your pain, judging and criticizing yourself, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal hardships by telling yourself: “this is really difficult right now…I feel hurt…how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?” It means that you honor and accept the fact that you are human and things may not always go as planned. As a part of life, you will encounter hardships, you will make mistakes, losses will happen, expectations won’t be met but nobody is perfect. You can choose to fight this reality but the more you are able to open your heart to accepting it, the more you will be able to feel compassion for yourself.

Dr. Kristen Neff is the lead researcher on self-compassion and she has identified 3 key elements of self-compassion:

1. Self-kindness vs. Self-judgment (What I’m going through is very hard right now…)
Instead of ignoring our pain or beating ourselves up with self-criticism, self-compassion involves being understanding and warm towards ourselves in difficult times when we fail, suffer, or feel inadequate. Experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so rather than getting overwhelmed with anger and holding on to frustration and resentment, self-compassion means you are supportive and gentle with yourself. Dr. Neff says “When reality is denied or fought against, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism.”

2. Common humanity vs. Isolation (but I’m not alone. Everybody goes through adversity…)
A part of being human means that one is mortal, imperfect, and vulnerable. Self-compassion is about acknowledging that personal inadequacy and suffering are a part of the shared human experience and not something that only happens to you. You are never alone in your experiences…all humans make mistakes.

3. Mindfulness vs. Over-identification (I am here and I feel you.)
Self-compassion is about allowing ourselves to mindfully observe and sit with our negative thoughts and emotions clarity in the here-and-now without judgment and without trying to push them away or cling onto them. This way we can allow ourselves to feel compassion for our pain by not over-identifying with it and thus, reacting negatively.

Many people confuse self-compassion with ideas such as self-pity, self-indulgence, making excuses for bad behavior or selfishness/narcissism. However, self-compassion is really taking responsibility for our behavior, even when it may be bad, and accepting ourselves as human. This allows us to see things more clearly and in turn, influences a change in our behavior to make progress toward positive goals rather than repeating the same negative behavior or staying stagnate. Self-compassion helps to breed strength and resilience in the face of adversity as well as increasing the ability to forgive ourselves and others too.

Studies have shown that people who are self-compassionate are more optimistic and more grateful. Whereas, people who are self-critical are at higher risk for depression and stress and less effective at implementing coping strategies. If you are going through a break-up or divorce, self-compassion can increase your ability to bounce back and heal quicker. Self-compassion can help instill a more positive body image and decrease risk of eating disorders. Gay men who showed self-compassion felt more satisfied with their lives, despite being at risk for discrimination. Veterans who practice self-compassion and mindfulness were more functional overall and less likely to develop mental health issues. Self-compassion is associated with lowered symptoms of depression and increased motivation and self-improvement. Carl Rogers once said “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Here are some signs that you may want to work on boosting your self-compassion:

• Nothing is ever good enough
• Your way is always the right way
• You ruminate repeatedly over your mistakes
• You see things as black and white, all or nothing
• You have an intense fear of failure

So now that you know all about what self-compassion entails, you may be wondering how you can start engaging in it more. Here are some tips and techniques for practicing self-compassion:

• How would you treat a friend?
• Self-compassion break
• Exploring self-compassion through writing
• Supportive touch
• Changing your critical self-talk
• Self-compassion journal
• Identifying what we really want
• Taking care of the care-giver
• Notice your self-talk
• Write yourself a letter as if you were writing to a friend
• Develop a self-compassion phrase
• Make a daily gratitude list
• Practice loving kindness meditation
• Cultivate forgiveness towards self
• Hug yourself and speak to yourself softly
• Cultivate mindfulness

It all seems so nice and easy when reading about self-compassion, but actually engaging in it is the hard part. Life may have beat you over the head one too many times or you may have low self-esteem and not feel worthy or deserving of compassion for yourself. However, that may be depression, PTSD, or anxiety talking. As long as you are human, you have the capacity, and deservability for self-compassion. You may just want to start small and our counselors are here to help and guide you toward embracing self-compassion. Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced Orlando mental health counselors.

Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristen Neff


LECS Counselor