Self-compassion is often something that slips down the list of priorities for most people. We try to find time to exercise, eat well we make time for the important people in our life, but what about when times get tough? Life is stressful, things happen beyond our control and can stir uncomfortable feelings, thoughts, memories, and pain. A very normal response is to ignore or distract from these experiences. But what if there’s another way to cope? That’s where self compassion comes in.
So what is self-compassion? Self-compassion is about embracing pain with loving kindness rather than avoiding pain. There is a large body of research which shows that greater levels of self-compassion are linked to less depression anxiety and stress. Further studies have shown, people who practice self-compassion are also less likely to ruminate or suppress negative thoughts and emotions compared to those low in self compassion (MacBeth and Gumley, 2012).
Dr Kristin Neff is a researcher in self compassion who identified self-compassion as having 3 core components:
First element – Kindness and compassion shown towards ourselves.
Most of us find it easy enough to show compassion and kindness towards someone who is suffering. Whether it be a stranger, family member, or good friend we show kindness and empathy towards another. In the same vein, self-compassion refers to showing the same kindness towards ourselves as we would a good friend.
Second element – Our imperfection as human beings is what makes us the same and connects us to others.
What it means to be human is to be imperfect. Each one of us are imperfect. When we think in terms of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’, e.g. ‘ I must achieve xyz or I have failed’ we feel isolated in our imperfection, when it is our imperfection that makes us much more like others.
Third element – Mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Most people I’ve worked with identify with having a self critic. Where mindfulness comes in is being aware of the inner critic and the feelings and emotions which are generated as a result. Before we can practice self-compassion, we first need to be aware of when we are struggling.
As human beings we can’t be perfect, we will make mistakes and we will endure struggle and hardships. Learning self-compassion can be a vital tool in facing challenges life throws at us.
This blog entry was inspired by Dr Kristin Neff’s TED talk on self-compassion.
Please see below for a link to the full TED talk by Dr Kristin Neff
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