The Importance of Self-Compassion


The Importance of Self-Compassion

The way we speak to ourselves impacts every aspect of our lives. If we are critical and hard on ourselves, we become more stressed, depressed and insecure. Practicing self-compassion can help you become more motivated, self-assured and confident. Self-compassion research reveals that individuals who practice the core components are far less likely to suffer from mental health conditions and are more resilient.

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is one of the leading researchers in self-compassion at the University of Texas in Austin and is the author of the book Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (William Morrow). She explains that due to social and environmental pressures, many people believe that if they are kind to themselves they will become lazy and unmotivated. However, the opposite is true. When you are hard on yourself, your body mentally attacks you more. This is certainly the opposite of what most of us want in our lives. So what can we do?

The 3 essential pieces to self-compassion that increase self-esteem:

1. Being kind to one’s self:

This means validating yourself or speaking to yourself the way you’d speak to a friend or a child. Self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we feel inadequate, insecure or when we are in emotional or physical pain. Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect and experiencing life’s challenges is inevitable, so they are gentle with themselves. When people disappoint them or they disappoint themselves they practice a key component of DBT: radical acceptance.

2. Sense of common humanity:

Accept that no one is perfect. We are all imperfect beings. We all suffer and we all make mistakes. This is vital in practicing self-compassion. When one is capable of recognizing that suffering and inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – it lessens the intensity of emotions and allows for more compassion.

3. Mindfulness:

Another core component in DBT, mindfulness, is a huge part of self-compassion as well. Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without pushing them away or denying them. When you are mindful of your feelings or experiences, you are able to be kinder and more compassionate to yourself. If you push them away or blame others, you become more critical of yourself and others.

Five Ways to Start Practicing Self-Compassion

  1. Hug yourself or someone you love for 10 seconds (pets count too!). This practice releases oxytocin in your brain. the chemical that makes you feel connected and loved.
  2. Talk to yourself like you would to a young child or good friend when you’ve made a mistake. Catch your critical thoughts and try to reframe them into more loving and kind comments.
  3. Connect with people who make you feel good. A supportive friend or family member is just a phone call away. Keep your distance from critical or unreliable people in your life.
  4. Say no to others when you need to take care of yourself or feel like you are getting sick. No is a full sentence
  5. Make a “done” list. Instead of looking at everything you haven’t done today, make a list of all the things you’ve accomplished in every aspect of your life. Did you take your vitamins and call back that person you’ve been dreading? Go you! Give yourself credit.

Remember, you more than anyone, deserve kindness and respect. Self-compassion starts with you.

Authored by:  Emily Roberts, MA, LPC