Self-compassion promotes happiness, boosts self-esteem, and encourages interconnection and consideration of others. It can be helpful to practice self-compassion when you feel angry or frustrated with yourself, or any time you feel you need some support and care. Research shows that you can learn to respond to failure, disappointment, or suffering with understanding and kindness instead of harsh judgment and become more self-compassionate through practice.
As parents, when we model self-compassion to our children, it helps them learn how to handle challenges productively and become strong and resilient adults. When children begin to respond with self-compassion it becomes easier for them to adopt a growth mindset and hold firm in the belief that they can learn from their mistakes and be the kind of person they want to be.
So, how can we practice self-compassion? Kristin Neff, Ph.D., a psychologist and expert on self-compassion, breaks down self-compassion practice into three steps: Mindfulness, Common Humanity, and Kindness. Let’s take a look at each of these steps below.
3 Steps to Self-Compassion
- Mindfulness: Start by observing your thoughts and emotions openly and clearly. Try not to push them away and be careful not to exaggerate them. See them for what they are, just as they are.
- Common Humanity: Recognize that all humans suffer and many people are experiencing pain, embarrassment, or anger, etc., in this moment just as you are. Acknowledge that while the type or degree of suffering may be different, suffering is part of being human, and you are not alone in your pain.
- Kindness: Cultivate warmth and understanding for yourself. Say some kind words to yourself, words that you might say to a friend who was going through a difficult time. Choose words that feel genuine and comforting. Perhaps try on these phrases to see if they work for you: “I know you are going through a difficult time. I’m here for you.” You can also try sending some good wishes, or loving kindness, to yourself by saying, “May you be happy, healthy, and peaceful.” Include any kind wishes for yourself that feel right to you in the moment.
Know thyself. Accept thyself. Love thyself.
The Link Between Compassion Toward Self and Others
Practicing self-compassion regularly can help you naturally turn towards self-compassion when you most need it. Read about how to create a regular habit that supports your well-being here.
If you find yourself in a very difficult situation, and it’s hard to face your feelings and practice the three steps outlined above, it may be useful to take the perspective of a compassionate outsider, such as a good friend or family member, a kind animal, or a compassionate spiritual figure. Imagine what this compassionate outsider would say to you in your time of distress and write a letter to yourself from the perspective of this kind figure or friend.
In addition to taking time to tune into your thoughts and feelings and cultivate a self-compassionate attitude, practicing regular acts of self-kindness and self-care can help promote self-compassion and well-being. We talked to Intuition Wellness’ naturopathic physician Dr. Kate Sage, to learn about how she practices self-compassion and self-care.
Dr. Sage on Self-Compassion
How do you practice self-compassion?
Dr. Sage: I am usually a pretty motivated person with high energy but I have recently realized that the past few months have made me feel depleted. I have had almost no energy for creative projects. I try to practice self-compassion by realizing this and being okay with where I am at at the moment. This is tough as I sometimes feel guilty that these projects are not moving forward, but ultimately I know I can pick them back up when I am ready. For right now, I have to constantly remind myself that I am enough.
What acts of self-kindness or self-care do you practice regularly?
Dr. Sage: One of the things that I find that’s very important for myself, is that I go out running early in the morning with a good friend. We do it twice per week. It’s the best thing for me. I find it very cathartic… being able to exercise, and be with a friend, and be outside…
I also read a lot…Finding the time to read a good book is also really important to me.
I think my self-care regimen is part of self compassion, as carving out time for the things that fill my bucket make me a better mom, wife, and doctor.
Now we’d like to ask you, dear reader: How do you practice self-compassion? What acts of self-kindness or self-care are critical to your well-being? What compassionate habits would you like to start to cultivate? Logon to our Facebook page and share!
At Intuition Wellness Center, we specialize in health and wellness services for children, young adults, and their families. If you think you would like some extra support, we’re here for you.
Written by: Debby Urken, LMSW; Child & Family Therapist