Self-compassion is being an ally to yourself rather than an enemy.
It involves three closely connected components:
Despite the extensive research demonstrating the mental and physical benefits of self-compassion, it’s an often unknown, overlooked, or even avoided practice.
Recognizing that you’ve fallen into self-criticism is the crucial first step in saving yourself from it and practicing more self-compassion:
Self-criticism takes many forms and everyone experiences it differently, but if you find yourself answering ‘yes’ to some or all of the questions above, this may be a sign that you fell into self-criticism.
You can do this in retrospect or in the moment you catch your inner critic speaking to you.
Imagine your inner critic as a being that lives inside your brain and talks to you. Rather than taking what it says (eg, ‘You’re so pathetic’) to be true or criticizing it for speaking up at all, approach your inner critic with curiosity — an ‘Oh, it’s you again’ attitude. Reflect, either internally or through journaling, on what your inner critic is trying to tell you.
If your inner critic said: ‘I’m so nosy. I shouldn’t have asked such personal questions,’ you would restate this as factually as possible. For example: ‘I asked one question about my boss’s marriage that, in this moment, I wish I hadn’t asked.’
Stripping down the situation to its indisputable facts removes the judgmental haze that can pull you into an alternative reality based on your interpretations and assumptions about yourself and the world.
When you offer compassion to a younger version of yourself, you’re stepping out of the cognitive rigidity that typically fuels your self-criticism and feelings of shame.
By externalizing and connecting with a version of yourself that isn’t technically present, you might find you can more easily access a compassionate approach.
You’ll find that practicing self-compassion is more effective when directed towards supporting your needs, rather than being a vague promise to be kinder to yourself.
To understand your needs, you must first have some sense of what you value most in life. It’s in the moments that you’re not living in line with your values – and subsequently not practicing self-compassion – that you tend to suffer the most.
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