Do you curse yourself over smallest mistake and believe that everything you do could, and should, be perfect? Do you sometimes hold yourself back from doing things that you would like to, because you feel you just won’t be ‘good enough’? Do you compare yourself to others and believe that they are somehow better than you are?
Sit back and take a minute to reflect, because I need to ask you another question: Are these beliefs making you as happy and as successful as you deserve to be in life?
Now I want you to consider when the last time you spoke to yourself kindly was? And I mean, speaking to yourself as you would to someone you cared about; a friend, a family member, or even a stranger for that matter.
If these questions cause you to consider your way of being in the world, then you are not alone.
The modern world drives us to believe that we must strive to achieve and in order to do this we must have high self-esteem, we must do things perfectly and we must do this alone. Well, the truth is not all of us believe that we can be high achievers and we don’t all have self-esteem in truck loads.
But if we could drop the ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ and stop for a second, allow me to suggest to you that there is a way of being that is much more healthy. A way of being that will support you to achieve what you want to in this life, without the self doubt, the comparisons and the relentless perfectionism.
It is called self-compassion.
Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is not an unrelenting pursuit. It is a powerful way to achieve emotional wellbeing and contentment in our lives. This helps us avoid destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation. The nurturing quality of self-compassion also allows us to flourish, to appreciate the beauty and richness of life, even in tough times. When we soothe our agitated minds with self-compassion, we become more able to consider what is right about life along with what is wrong. Like this we become more able to orient ourselves toward that which gives us joy.
So how do you do it? Try the following five-minute practice:
1. Think of a situation in your life that is difficult and is causing you stress.
2. Call the situation to mind and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.
3. Now say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.” This acknowledgment is a form of mindfulness—of simply noticing what is going on for you emotionally in the present moment, without judging that experience as good or bad. You can also say to yourself, “This hurts,” or, “This is stress.” Use whatever statement feels most natural to you.
4. Next, say to yourself, “Suffering is a part of life.” This is a recognition of your common humanity with others—that all people have trying experiences, and these experiences give you something in common with the rest of humanity rather than mark you as abnormal or deficient. Other options for this statement include “Other people feel this way,” “I’m not alone,” or “We all struggle in our lives.”
5. Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch on your chest, and say, “May I be kind to myself.” This is a way to express self-kindness. You can also consider whether there is another specific phrase that would speak to you in that particular situation. Some examples: “May I give myself the compassion that I need,” “May I accept myself as I am,” “May I learn to accept myself as I am,” “May I forgive myself,” “May I be strong,” and “May I be patient.”
This practice can be used any time of day or night. If you practice it in moments of relative calm, it might become easier for you to experience the three parts of self-compassion—mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness—when you need them most.
Why you should try it.
Difficult situations become even harder when we beat ourselves up over them, interpreting them as a sign that we’re less capable or worthy than other people. In fact, we often judge ourselves more harshly than we judge others, especially when we make a mistake or feel stressed out. That makes us feel isolated, unhappy, and even more stressed; it may even make us try to feel better about ourselves by denigrating other people.
Rather than harsh self-criticism, a healthier response is to treat yourself with compassion and understanding. According to psychologist Kristin Neff, this “self-compassion” has three main components: mindfulness, a feeling of common humanity, and self-kindness. This exercise walks you through all three of those components when you’re going through a stressful experience. Research suggests that people who treat themselves with compassion rather than criticism in difficult times experience greater physical and mental health.
Why it works.
The three elements in this practice—mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness—all play important roles in increasing self-compassion. Mindfulness allows people to step back and recognize that they are experiencing suffering, without judging that suffering as something bad that they should try to avoid; sometimes people fail to notice when they are in pain, or deny that they are suffering because it brings up feelings of weakness or defeat. Common humanity reminds people of their connection with other people—all of whom suffer at some point in their lives—and eases feelings of loneliness and isolation. Self-kindness is an active expression of caring toward the self that can help people clarify their intentions for how they want to treat themselves.
Going through these steps in response to a stressful experiences can help people replace their self-critical voice with a more compassionate one, one that comforts and reassures rather than berating them for shortcomings. That makes it easier to work through stress and reach a place of calm, acceptance, and happiness
Be your own best friend, because it’s time to give yourself a break!
For more enlightenment and self-care, don’t forget to check out our Truth or Dare Self-Discovery + Happiness Game!