It’s hard for us to master self-compassion. We’re constantly being told that we’re not good enough and that we need to change. Whether we’re in line at the grocery store, listening to the radio, browsing around on facebook, snapchat, instagram, or twitter, there are always sources telling us to change. We’re bombarded by advertisements telling us the best hair styles, how to lose weight, wear the right clothes, change this, and fix that.
Now think about how many sources tell us we’re fine just the way we are? Maybe a few songs, a comment or two from our partners and friends, a few body positivity articles, but it’s never enough. Generally speaking, we’re left on our own to make ourselves feel good enough. And that can be tough.
Personally, when I think about self-compassion I imagine the Stuart Smalley “daily affirmations” sketch from SNL. I picture myself standing in front of a mirror, stating positive affirmations while a crowd laughs behind me. Truthfully, that crowd is me and it’s laughing at how dumb I sound telling myself, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog gone it, people like me!”
That can be a hard thing to deal with. But, I’ve learned to push through the initial embarrassment. Because, on the other side of that laughter, is a genuine sense of self-compassion.
Self-compassion gives us all a sense of empathy for others. By practicing self-compassion, we start understanding that others are struggling with the same issues as us. We can start spotting the people in crowds who might be acting out of fear, or shame, or embarrassment, and treating them the say way we’d treat ourselves. Self-compassion also makes it harder for others to hurt us, and for us to hurt ourselves. Often, we’re our own harshest critics. Practicing self-compassion helps us silence our inner critics. It’s a great Mindfulness technique that you can practice daily.
You can make those moments of insight and empathy stronger and brighter through practice too. Take time, multiple times throughout your day, to check in on yourself. Sit down and focus on being compassionate to yourself. Say some nice things that you’re doing and find what you did good during the day. When you’re in the middle of beating yourself up, stop and take a moment to realize what you’re doing. Take a couple of deep breaths and give yourself some compassion. You’ll be surprised by how often it can change your mood.
Truthfully, the trick to mastering self-compassion is realizing when we need to stop and focus. Pay attention to how your body reacts when you’re feeling down or negative. Use that as a cue for when you need to focus on self-compassion. Maybe when you’re down you start talking lower, or slouching more. Recognize that physical trait and spin it into a self-compassion starting point.
By working on our self-compassion we can avoid the classic downward spirals of our thoughts, feelings, and disruptive behaviors. Rather than beating ourselves up and getting further depressed, angry, or upset, we can spin it into a positive. As we learn to be better at being compassionate to ourselves, we can return the favor to others. Making the world a better, more empathetic place.