Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill directed towards our own self. Having self-compassion means being able to relate to ourselves in a way that’s non-judgmental, accepting, and loving in any situation. To practice Self-compassion we do not have to create new emotions, but recognize the present ones and accept them with kindness. Self-compassion is our capacity to turn love, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, and acceptance inwards.
Why do we need self-compassion?
Our ability to live our lives fully depends primarily on how we feel about ourselves. We tend to be very tough on ourselves. We have frequent self-evaluations of perceived inadequacy and failure. Who among us does not recognize all or some of these self-deprecating talks:
“ I am not enough”
“I am not likable”
“I say stupid things”
“I am not doing enough”
“I don’t deserve this “
It seems like our negative thoughts about ourselves are on autopilot. We bring negative self-perception, and self-criticism into our lives without much self-awareness. Such negative thoughts translate into negative experiences like anger, sadness, jealousy, frustrations, etc. Scientists have discovered that self-criticism actually changes our brain. It reduces our capacity to build relationships, sustain attention, and leads to many mental issues like depression, anxiety, etc.
In order to live a productive, joyful, happy, and fulfilling life we are well-served to practice self-compassion. Which means being a compassionate and understanding friend to our own self. It is time we become mindful of the fact that Self-compassion is a necessity and not a luxury.
Benefits of Practicing Self-compassion
According to experts some common benefits of self-compassion are :
- Increased emotional intelligence.
- Reduced mental health problems like depression.
- Less likely to ruminate on our negative thoughts and feelings.
- Optimistic view of future and better ability to thrive.
- Reduced Anxiety.
- Increased empathy result which results in better social skills.
- More self-love and acceptance.
- Experiences of more joy and happiness in everyday life.
How to practice Self-compassion
1. Change your critical self-talk: Treat yourself the way you treat your friends and loved ones. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. By changing self-talk we change the brain’s plasticity to our benefit. Change self-narrative from negative to positive, from resistance to self-acceptance, and from judgmental to loving-kindness.
2. Keep a daily journal: Write down your thoughts on challenging experiences. It will become easier to reflect on and change your behavior when you jot down your reaction to difficult situations.
3. Practice Mindful Meditation: Studies have shown that meditation is a sure way to become more mindful. Mindfulness refines our attention so that we can focus on what is happening in our present moment. Rest your attention on how you are feeling, thinking, and responding to your own reactions. Focus and try to identify the “ automatic thought patterns”. Once identified, it will be easy to work on negative patterns of thinking.
4. “Common humanity”: Experts highly recommend focussing on “Common humanity”. It is a very effective tool for cultivating self-compassion. Simply put, common humanity refers to the fact that all humans have something in common. That something is “human suffering”. We may not realize this in difficult times. but the truth is that all human beings are struggling in one way or another. We are not alone in our struggles. Our struggles may feel unique and overwhelming to us, but others are also facing challenges and difficulties. Reminding ourselves that others are also going through pain, challenges, and suffering makes us feel less isolated. It makes space for empathy, acceptance, and faith.
5. Accept yourself: As the saying goes, “To err is human”. Accept your flaws and imperfections. All humans have them. There is simply no way around small failures and mistakes in life. Recognize your limitations, accept your imperfections, and love yourself unconditionally.
It is no easy task to transform our self-judgmental brain into a self-compassionate one. We have to undo the conditioning that self-kindness, self-acceptance, and self-love are rewards to be earned. Recognize that we are already complete and lovable. Our limitations and mistakes make us unique, not imperfect.
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