How to Nurture Self Compassion

What is self-compassion?

Self compassion basically means being kind to yourself.

This may seem a foreign concept to some people, especially if they have been raised in an abusive or unloving home where compassion may have been absent. As self-compassion refers to relating to the self with kindness, it is not to be confused with arrogance or conceit, which would usually indicate a lack of self-love.

Why self-compassion?

For more than a decade research has shown that self-compassion has a positive correlation with psychological well-being. Those who practice self-compassion have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, and overall life satisfaction also tending to be happier. Self-compassion has been shown to correlate with lower levels of depression, anxiety, fear of failure and shame.

Three practices for self-compassion.

  1. Mindfulness
  • Mindfulness comprises paying attention to our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations without judging them or trying to change them.
  • Instead of getting caught up in what we notice, with mindfulness we step back and observe how we feel and think.
  • We don’t try to talk ourselves in and out of how we feel, we just watch.
  • Mindful self-compassion is also about taking a balanced approach to our experiences. This means we don’t “push down” what comes up, but likewise we don’t get bogged down in it or buy into it too much.
  • Mindfulness is a key part of self-compassion because we can’t stop and try to be compassionate towards ourselves until we realise what’s happening for us.
  1. Common Humanity
  • When things don’t go as planned or we inevitably “stuff up” in some way it’s common to feel like we’re abnormal, that we are the only person who struggles in this way or to this extent. This can lead to comparing ourselves with others. And this never tends to turn out well!
  • Comparisons not only tend to make us feel worse, it’s usually not very accurate because we tend to assume we are alone in our pain.
  • Being human means we are all imperfect and wonderfully flawed. Literally everyone single one of us, no exceptions!
  • Self-compassion involves recognising and acknowledging this vulnerability.
  • This “messiness” is something that we all experience, rather than something that happens just to anyone of us alone.
  1. Self-kindness
  • Self-kindness means being kind and caring towards ourselves when we are suffering – instead of the two extremes of either beating ourselves up for how we feel or ignoring how we feel.
  • People who practice self-compassion don’t expect themselves to be perfect or to never fail, or never to be impacted by difficulties or for life to never to be painful.
  • Because of this they are inclined to approach how they feel in a gentle and kind way, rather than battling with themselves or fighting against their experience, as this tends to result in self-criticism, stress, shame and frustration with ourselves.
  • If you consider it like a tug of war against life, self-kindness would be like dropping the rope. It’s deciding not to use your limited energy fighting against yourself or against the hard stuff that life inevitably throws at you. Instead you’re going to use your energy to take care of yourself.

    Written by:
    Cheryl Gale,
    Psychologist,
    Proactive Health + Movement