Tag Archives: self-compassion

The Struggle for Self-Compassion


Is self-compassion good or bad? If asked this question, most people would agree that self-compassion is a positive thing. It’s also likely that the majority of those people have spent their lives cultivating a harsh inner self-critic and readily indulge thoughts such as “I made such a stupid mistake, people must think I’m an idiot” or “I’m not a good parent/friend/partner/employee…why is it so hard for me to just get it together?” So what causes the discrepancy between our belief about self-compassion and our resistance to practicing it?

Even though they know that it makes them feel bad, many people subconsciously rely on self-criticism as a way of coping with rejection or failure. This could be attributed to the messages we receive and internalize as children whenever we acted in a way that was deemed “unacceptable”. These criticisms served to teach us how to behave according to the unwritten rules of society. Thus, when we experience failure as adults, we may use self-criticism as a way of “teaching ourselves” not to make that mistake again.

While healthy introspection is a valuable tool for self-improvement, self-criticism can be counter-productive for several reasons:

    • no amount of self-criticism will change the past and undo whatever bad thing happened. 

 

    • self-criticism is demoralizing and discouraging. The more discouraged we feel, the less likely we are to overcome a failure by “getting back on the horse” and trying again. Imagine teaching a young child to ride a bike and saying “you fell off? How embarrassing. You must feel like a real idiot.” That kid is going back inside and will never think about riding a bike again until he talks about it with his own therapist 20 years later. 

 

    • self- criticism encourages a perfectionistic mindset, which is less about “striving for excellence” and more focused on “not making mistakes in an attempt to avoid the judgement of other people.” 
 

Where does self-compassion come in? 
Self-compassion is the antidote for self-criticism. Self-compassion does not mean resigning yourself to life’s circumstances. On the contrary, people who are successful in reaching their goals are shown to have higher levels of self-compassion. This is due to the fact that compassion fosters resilience and perseverance, rather than doubt and hopelessness.

Here are some ways to practice self-compassion:

 

  • remain mindful of when self-talk turns negative. Ask yourself honestly the extent to which that inner dialogue is true. 

 

  • shift into a more flexible mindset. Hardly anything in life is black and white, so get comfortable sitting in the gray area. When you make a mistake tell yourself “well that wasn’t my most shining moment but in the grand scheme of things it’s hardly reflective of my true character.” 

 

  • avoid internalizing small mistakes. You might have done a bad thing by forgetting about your lunch date with a friend, but it does not mean you are a bad person

 

  • talk about your feelings with a friend. Chances are, they will automatically treat you with the compassion you are having trouble giving yourself. 

 

Remember that everyone makes mistakes and experiences failure – it is part of the universal experience of being human. When we are able to be vulnerable and acknowledge fears and insecurities, we build stronger bonds with others and learn how to remove our own self-worth from the stakes. Go ahead and incorporate self-compassion into your life today – you deserve it!

Carolyn Moriarty, LPC

Do You Have Enough Self-Compassion?

 

As children, one of the first things we learn is how to be kind to others. A strong emphasis is placed on helping, sharing and what it means to be a good friend—unarguably imperative qualities to instill at a young age. However, Western culture places far less importance on showing that same kindness to ourselves—the thought of practicing “self-compassion” likely seems like an absurd and almost undesirable trait to most people. Unfortunately, this mindset takes away one of the most beneficial coping skills we have at our disposal.

What is self-compassion? 
Self-compassion goes beyond just “positive self-talk.” It is an all-encompassing mentality that aims to decrease emotional suffering by increasing self-worth, self-acceptance and connectedness with others. It can be broken down into three main faucets: 

    • Mindfulness: when we are mindful, we are aware of our experiences without avoiding or exaggerating them

 

    • Understanding: we practice understanding by responding to our painful feelings with nonjudgmental acceptance and kindness

 

    • Connectedness: to avoid emotional isolation, we must remember that all humans experience pain that we are never alone in our suffering 

Benefits of self-compassion 
It is easy to feel threatened by emotions because we often cannot control, understand or rationalize them. As a result, we can either find ourselves detaching from these feelings or becoming obsessed and overwhelmed by them. Self-compassion works to soothe the intensity of our emotions by allowing us to let go of unrealistic expectations that cause us to be overly critical. Practicing self-compassion can also help us become more compassionate toward others, leading to healthier relationships.

How do you practice self-compassion? 
Here are a few simple exercises that can help you foster self-compassion:

    • Mindfulness When feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or irritated, ask yourself: What do I observe? What do I feel? What do I need right now? If you are unable to provide yourself with what you need, don’t be afraid to seek out support from others

 

    • How would you treat a friend? As mentioned previously, sometimes it’s easier to be kind and supportive to other people than it is to ourselves. When grappling with a painful experience, ask yourself how you would respond to a friend who was coping with the same thing.

 

    • Journaling: Reflect upon the day and without censorship or judgement, write down anything that caused you to feel badly. Be sure to include kind words of reassurance or comfort about your experiences such as “this was a really tough day for me and I am feeling emotionally raw. I will be gentle with myself until it subsides.” 

Pain and suffering are part of the shared human experience—you are not alone. Remember that you are deserving of empathy and kindness. Take care of yourself and do not hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend or mental health professional f you need extra support.

-Carolyn Moriarty, LPC