Self-compassion has three parts. Mindfulness, which is awareness into you thoughts, how you are talking to yourself, and how your self-talk is impacting you. Self-kindness, which means being kind to yourself. And Common Humanity, which means understanding that we are all human, we all have flaws and make mistakes and yours don’t make you worse than anyone else.
Self-compassion is important because when we are not kind to ourselves, we are essentially bullying ourselves. Our body then demonstrates a stress response. It has the same impact as someone else being unkind to us. And more, because not only are we the attacker, we are also the person being attacked so it is a doubled stress response. As mammals, we respond best to being nurtured and comforted. So when we are kind to ourselves, we feel more motivated and less depressed. Our body releases feel good hormones like oxytocin instead of stress honorees such as cortisol. However, being kind to ourselves is very difficult, despite the benefits. Living in a capitalistic society, we are trained to focus on our flaws and fix them so that we can be successful. Also, our internal dialogue develops as a result of the way our caretakers spoke to us so if they were critical, our self-talk will be much less compassionate. We are also taught the “golden rule” of treating others the way we want to be treated, emphasizing being kind to others, but no one teaches us to be kind to ourselves as well. We are often meaner to ourselves than we would be to someone we don’t even like.
Tips to be kind to ourselves:
1) Mindfulness. Build awareness into your internal dialogue. This can be accomplished through guided meditations that focus on your thoughts such as a “leaves on the stream” meditation. This helps us notice our thoughts more regularly
2) Ask yourself “would I say this to someone I care about?” If you would not say the things you’re saying to yourself to you child, partner, parent, sibling, or friend, then do not say it to yourself. Rephrase it to be kinder and to reflect how you would say it to someone you care about.
3) Keep a self-compassion journal. In this journal you can list positive things about yourself daily, give yourself affirmations, and write down thoughts about yourself so you can rewrite it in a kinder, more compassionate way.
4) Manage your perspective. We often look at other, often in social media, and focus on how we are different (worse) then others. It’s helpful to shift our perspective and focus on how we are the same as others. Instead of focusing on our flaws, highlight how we have similar strengths to what we see in others.
4) Therapy. A therapist can help you learn to observe your thoughts and challenge unhelpful thinking you have about yourself.