Befriending yourself

From a young age, we learn how to be a good friend to others. We learn how to share and to treat others how we want to be treated.

Yet, many of us don't receive guidance on how to treat ourselves with kindness. We might even believe that being kind towards ourselves is self-indulgent or weak.

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Self-compassion is not self-indulgence: here’s how to try it | Psyche Ideas

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Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness with which you'd treat a loved one. Self-compassion consists of three ingredients:

  • Self-kindness: Offering warmth and understanding to yourself.
  • Common humanity: Acknowledging that we all make mistakes and experience pain.
  • Mindfulness: Observing your thoughts without becoming consumed by them.

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Researchers found that self-compassion helps people take personal responsibility for problems and help them persist when facing obstacles.

If we are self-compassionate, we create a safe space to look at our embarrassing missteps. We can recognise that failures are natural. Without self-criticism and shame, it's easier for self-compassionate people to improve and move forward.

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You can either fill your tank with criticism or with compassion. Both will get you moving, but self-compassion will last longer and cause less damage over time.

When you practice being kind to yourself, you will find it easier to get up if you failed at something, apologise after losing your cool, or return to exercising after neglecting it.

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It is not an elusive trait reserved for a few lucky ones. We can train our self-compassion, for example, through writing exercises (writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of a caring friend), imagery, or meditations. These exercises can help us respond to ourselves with encouragement and care.

Yet, most people find cultivating self-compassion very difficult. Research found that just changing participants beliefs about the usefulness of self-compassion helped them cope better.

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  • Notice what you believe about self-compassion. What do you think would happen if you were self-compassionate? What would happen if you let go of harsh self-criticism?
  • Notice how you talk to yourself. Is your self-talk negative? Do you hold yourself to impossible standards?
  • Examine your assumptions about self-compassion.

At first, self-compassion might feel odd, scary or difficult. Be patient with yourself. Getting better at self-compassion takes practice.

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