How to Practice Self-Compassion

self care self compassion self esteem self love Jul 17, 2022

[Originally Published 07/17/2020]

Contributed by Brianne Holtkamp, M.A., LMHC-P

What would you do if your best friend said they were unlovable? Most likely, you would jump right in without hesitation and tell them all the reasons why you love them and why their belief is untrue. Oddly enough, you have most likely thought or felt this about yourself and have neglected to extend the same compassion that you have so readily provided to your friends for yourself. Maybe it is not the thought of being unlovable for you, rather it might sound something like, “I can’t ever get it right” or “I will never be good enough”. Unfortunately, most people are no stranger to these thoughts. Now the question stands, how do you begin to show the same compassion to yourself that you would for a friend? 

Dr. Kristin Neff is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. In her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Dr. Neff states, “having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness.” When you accept imperfections and disappointments as part of the human experience, you learn to develop a gentle kindness toward yourself. Knowing and accepting this reality encourages you to appreciate and learn from your shortcomings, rather than criticize and place judgement on yourself. Ultimately, when you consistently engage in personal scrutiny, you begin to avoid experiences that could lend themselves to failure which deny you opportunities to develop resilience, personal growth, and your full potential. 

There are four steps to take to begin practicing self-compassion. First, you must acknowledge and become aware of your suffering. Learn to check in with yourself and evaluate what you're feeling. However, when you open this door, you may feel as if your emotions have become more intense and overwhelming. This leads us to the next step of grounding. In the second step, it is important to practice deep breathing and mindfulness exercises to avoid becoming consumed by these emotions. There are a number of resources online if you simply search mindfulness activities! The third step involves checking in and becoming more aware of your own personal judgments and criticisms. What negative messages are you sending yourself? These judgments may have become such a natural part of your thought processes that you fail to notice their effects. In the fourth and final step, be a friend to yourself. Embrace your failures and show yourself the same compassion that you have shown to others. Remind yourself of your value and worth and give yourself what you need in that moment. 

If you wish to learn more, use the link below to assess your own level of self-compassion and begin exploring the practice of being kind to yourself!

Test how self-compassionate you are | Kristin Neff

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