Most of us understand what compassion means when we use it towards other human beings but what about ourselves? Many of us get stuck in unhelpful patterns of unnecessary self-criticism which can prove harmful to our health.
Self-compassion is becoming an increasingly important skill, and studies shown that those with self-compassion are less likely to become anxious or depressed, leading to higher life satisfaction.
But what exactly is self-compassion? And how can we internalise this trait which is so often reserved for other individuals?
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-compassion can be broken down into three distinct elements:
- Self-kindness or having the ability to refrain from harsh criticism
- The ability to recognize your own humanity or the fact that each of us is imperfect and each of us experiences pain
- The ability to maintain a sense of mindfulness or non-biased awareness of experiences, even if they are painful
Self-compassion focuses on self-acceptance, recognising and accepting the flaws every individual has, rather than trying to force yourself into becoming perfect in your own eyes.
How Is Self-Compassion Beneficial?
Without any sense of self-compassion, self-criticism can take over, which can quickly lead to mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.
But by actively practicing self-compassion, you can begin to approach obstacles with a sense of feeling like you’re part of your own team. By accepting that it’s ok to have things within your life that need to change and you are not perfect, you can start to develop a feeling of self-worth whilst working through any issues you may need to address.
A large part of self-compassion is silencing the voice of your inner-critic, and instead developing a more positive perception of yourself.
5 Ways We Criticise Ourselves and How to Fix Them
Here’s a list of the 5 most common criticisms we make of ourselves and how to take a more self-compassionate approach:
1 Stop Punishing Yourself for Mistakes You’ve Made
Instead of punishing yourself for mistakes you’ve made – for example making poor nutritional choices that have led to weight gain – accept that you’re not perfect and be gentle with yourself when addressing your shortcomings. Your friends and family love you for who you are, not because you are completely faultless.
This way you can then begin to address the mistake in a positive frame of mind instead of a negative one.
2 Stop Viewing Everything as an Impossible Obstacle
Individuals that lack self-compassion listen to their inner critical voice that says “you can’t do this” when faced with an obstacle. Instead, learn to embrace the obstacle as a challenge, looking for what can be learned from the experience, rather than focusing on how hard or scary it may be.
3 Stop Criticising Yourself for What You Don’t Have
In this age of social media where we are constantly exposed to lifestyles we desire but don’t have the means to carry out, it can be easy to criticise yourself for not having what you want.
However, take a moment to be grateful for what you already have. Many people across the world will likely have far less than you have, no matter your background. Also understand what is and what isn’t within your locus of control. You shouldn’t ever hold yourself responsible for situations that you have no control over.
4 Focus On Rewarding Yourself as Well as Others
It’s a common trait for individuals to give more compassion to others than they do towards themselves. Self-indulgence is often seen by many individuals as a bad thing, criticising themselves for putting their needs above others.
Whilst this shouldn’t take place all of the time, you need to understand that when looking after your own needs – mental, physical, material or otherwise – it’s ok every once in a while. You shouldn’t find yourself in a cycle of all give and no take.
5 Be Mindful with Your Negative Thoughts
Another common habit is to hold onto and recycle criticisms. If this is something you recognise, take a moment to practice mindfulness. Allow your negative thoughts to have a moment within your headspace. Once that moment has passed, and without any attachment, just let them go.
From there you can move on with a more positive mindset, clearing any more negative thoughts as and when they enter your mind.
Learn to Love Yourself Better with More Self-Compassion
Sometimes it can feel very difficult to silence your inner critic, but it can improve by practicing more self-compassion. Instead of giving in to your own inner criticism, look to accept yourself for who you are before addressing any problems or flaws with a positive outlook.
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