To be compassionate is to, quite simply, be kind to ourselves. When we have self compassion, we can act to ourselves in a similar way to how we act to others. We can forgive ourselves, be gentle to ourselves, and altogether be happier individuals.
So, why then, when self compassion sounds so appealing, do so many of us struggle implementing it into our own lives?
1. Self-criticism seems natural to us – We often find ourselves having negative thoughts more frequently than positive thoughts. It seems natural to be harsh to ourselves, because we don’t want to appear egocentric individuals who are self obsessed. However, when we are criticising ourselves, we leave little room for compassion. If you’re beating yourself up over a mistake you made a few days, weeks or even months ago, then over time you gain an increased feeling of negativity towards yourself. And this can become habitual. We keep criticising ourselves when things go wrong because it is easy for us to do, even though it is not beneficial to us.
2. It’s easy to get caught up in our own thoughts – We essentially live within our own minds. We are our brains, living in a body! We see the world through our own minds and everything we perceive and think comes through our brains. It’s unsurprising, then, how easily we become caught up in our web of thinking, with one thought leading to the next. Some days I feel like I’m living entirely in my thoughts and don’t pay much attention to my surroundings. If we are so caught up in our mental states, it’s no wonder that we find it hard to be compassionate to ourselves. It’s almost like our minds don’t let us.
3. Many of us lack self worth – Having a depleted sense of self-worth, not feeling ever quite ‘good enough’ is all too common in today’s’ society. With our lives often dominated by social media, meaning that we are frequently exposed to the lives of others, this leaves room for a tremendous amount of comparison to other people’s lives. Also, as many of us have noticed through this pandemic, life goes at a very fast pace, with many of us constantly seeking the next best thing, the next life experience, and we rarely reflect on our achievements up until now. All these things combined can result in a lack of self appreciation and worth.
So, how can we start being kinder to ourselves?
A strategy that I have found to be useful is speaking to myself as I might speak to a friend. If a friend made a mistake, would I tell them they were worthless and should spend the next weeks worrying and feeling guilty over it? Most definitely not! Using this method can make us realise, quite shockingly, how hard we are on ourselves.
Something else might be to spend some time journaling each day, jotting down things you are grateful for, your strengths, and what you like about yourself. This can increase our own positive feelings.
Maybe spend some time thinking about whether you need to incorporate some more self-compassion into your life.