It's Time to Cultivate Your Self-CompassionMar 02, 2023
“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
Being kind to yourself can be hard in a world where criticism and negativity seem to reign supreme. But, as Kristin Neff so eloquently put it, “It’s time we gave ourselves the same kindness and care we give to our friends.” This concept is known as self-compassion. Let’s delve into this concept and explore the history, components, and practices that one might use to cultivate their self-compassion.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion consists of three core components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness encourages us to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding instead of criticism or judgment when faced with difficult situations or mistakes. Common humanity is the recognition that all humans experience suffering and difficulty - we are not alone in our struggles - while mindfulness involves being aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them or judging them harshly.
Self-compassion has its roots in Buddhist teachings but has been popularized by Dr. Neff over the past decade or so through her research, books, lectures, and online courses on the subject. Self-compassion has been found to help people cope with failure more effectively than other coping strategies like positive thinking or denial of negative emotions (Neff, 2003). It can also help encourage greater resilience following difficult life events such as trauma (Neff et al., 2019).
So how can you cultivate self-compassion in your own life? One technique that Dr. Neff recommends is writing a letter of compassion to yourself once per week (Neff et al., 2018). In these letters you should express your understanding for why you may have acted a certain way or made certain decisions that didn't turn out as planned; remind yourself it is okay to make mistakes; offer words of comfort like “I acknowledge your suffering; it’s understandable that you feel this way; I am here for you; what can I do for you now?”; and finally extend feelings of warmth towards yourself like imagining giving yourself a big hug from someone who loves you unconditionally (Neff et al., 2018). Another exercise recommended by Dr. Neff is reciting compassionate affirmations about yourself aloud every day (e.g., “I am worthy of love & respect”).
Self-compassion is an incredibly powerful tool that allows us to recognize our shared humanity and treat ourselves with kindness rather than judgment when faced with difficult situations or mistakes. Through cultivating greater awareness of our thoughts & feelings without getting caught up in them as well as engaging in specific exercises such as writing letters of compassion to ourselves and reciting compassionate affirmations each day, we can begin incorporating more self-compassion into our lives today! With greater self-compassion comes greater resilience when faced with challenging times - so go ahead & give it a try! You deserve it!
Photo credit: Micheile Henderson @Unsplash
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