Self-Compassion is about extending a feeling of compassion towards one’s self in times of perceived inadequacy, failure or general suffering because all human beings deserve compassionate understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented etc), but because with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself.
Self-Compassion Is Not Self-Pity
When someone feels self-pity it means they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others may have similar problems as well. They ignore their inter-connectiveness with others and instead feel they are the only ones in the world suffering. Therefore, they create more emphasis on their personal suffering and create feelings of separation from others becoming carried away with and wrapped up in their own emotional drama.
Self-compassion allows one to see the related experiences of the self and without these feelings of isolation and disconnection. When in the dilemma of self-pity, it is hard to step back from their situation and adopt a more balanced perspective. Yet by taking a more balanced objective of a compassionate other towards oneself, “mental space” is provided to recognise the broader human context of one’s own experience and put things into greater perspective. (“Yes it is very difficult what I am going through right now, but there are many other people who are experiencing much greater suffering, perhaps this isn’t worth getting quite so upset about …”)
The Benefits Of Self-Compassion
Our sense of self is often a divided thing. Most of us have a part in us that is on our side, like a good friend. It encourages and supports us and believes in what we can achieve. However, there are also other parts to our personality and one large powerful part is our inner critic.
Our inner critic, while trying to protect us, is often mean and aggressive towards us and not a good friend. Like an overly harsh parent it insults us, questions us, criticises and undermines us. It keeps us from pursuing our goals and punishes us for our mistakes.
Research has shown that the most effective way to lessen the grip of our inner critic is to practice self-compassion.
Dr Kristin Neff is a leading researcher on self-compassion. Her research has shown that in many ways, self-compassion is more beneficial than self-esteem to our psychological well-being. Self-compassion involves nurturing a friendly relationship to our very own being, by treating our self with more kindness, caring and allowance.
According to Dr Neff, self-compassion involves three main elements:
- Self-kindness instead of self-judgement: Being kind to yourself rather than evaluating yourself. It means being warm towards yourself when encountering pain and personal disturbance, rather than ignoring what is occurring for you, or hurting yourself with self-criticism.
- Realisation of our common humanity instead of isolation: Self-compassion is recognising that you are not alone in your struggles and by seeing that suffering and personal failure is part of the shared human experience
- Mindfulness instead of over-identification with thoughts: Self-compassion requires taking a balanced approach to negative emotions so that feelings are neither suppressed or exaggerated. These are observed with openness whilst held in mindful awareness. Mindfulness is a non-judgemental, receptive mind state in which individuals observe their thoughts and feelings as they are without trying to suppress or deny them. Hence, mindfulness requires that a person is not “over-identified” with mental or emotional phenomena, so that they suffer with an adverse reaction.
Adopting these attitudes leads to many rewards. By fostering self-kindness, we can steer away from judging ourselves too harshly, and we can return to this attitude any time life doesn’t go exactly our way. Dr Neff said “We can’t always get what we want. We can’t always be who we want to be. When this reality is denied or resisted, suffering arises in the form of stress, frustration and self-criticism. When this reality is understood, and accepted we generate positive emotions of kindness and care that help us cope”.
By practising mindfulness, we reduce our tendency to ruminate on problems or negative forms of thinking that prevent real growth or change. The practice of self-compassion can help us avoid the trappings of the self-limiting or destructive thought processes, like the critical inner voice.
Dr Neff’s findings show that self-compassion can reduce anxiety and actually help us to make real changes in our lives, by creating the deep understanding that all human beings suffer and are struggling JUST LIKE ME, gives us a sense of common humanity, then we can stop seeing ourselves as a victim who suffers more than anyone else. Instead we can accept the truth that all humans suffer. The very definition of being “human” means that we are mortal, vulnerable and imperfect.
Self-compassion involves recognising that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience – something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to “me” alone.
The rewards of self-compassion are many and can be explored in greater detail in Kirstin Neff’s book on this topic.
Some findings show that self-compassion significantly increases happiness, optimism, positivity, wisdom, interest, friendliness, confidence and relaxation.
In each of our lifetimes, we will be faced with struggles, big and small, both internally and externally. The pursuit of self-compassion allows us to face these obstacles. We can be our own best friend. We can learn to calm down the critical inner voice that holds us back. We can feel worthwhile and connect deeply to the kind, caring energy of our being.
Treating yourself the same way you
would treat a friend during a difficult time!
BENEFITS OF SELF-COMPASSION:
Improves Body Image
How Can I Help As A Therapist
As a therapist, I will offer the time, space, support and encouragement to face and explore those struggles, whether big or small, both internally and externally. I will help you gain understanding as to why you may be experiencing these issues by further exploring any thoughts and feelings with which you are becoming carried away or which are causing an emotional dilemma for you.
In this way you begin to feel better about yourself, the others around you and about your life. By facing your obstacles you will begin to become self-compassionate, you will begin to be a friend towards yourself and more importantly you will begin to grow and evolve to become the person you want to be and not feel held back. You will connect to feelings of being worthwhile and a kind and caring energy within.
If I can help you evolve to make change in your life then take a positive step forwards right now by contacting me.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07973410375 / 02088732843.
I operate from clinics in both Epsom, Surrey and Crawley, West Sussex.