Caroline Rucker, M.S., LMFT-Associate, CSAT-Candidate on Feb 23, 2023 in Mood and Feelings
The word “compassion” is not a rare one. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard this word somewhere this past week already! While it may be a common topic or something that is often spoken about, the depth of compassion and how it can be turned towards ourselves can sometimes be passed over.
The textbook definition of compassion (or at least how it’s defined in the Oxford English Dictionary) is “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” I’m sure many sets of caregivers, including my own, highlighted the importance of showing compassion and kindness to those who are experiencing difficulties in life. Maybe it’s a friend going through an incredibly hard breakup or someone else you know losing a job. It can even be how you feel when you notice someone dropping their groceries or seeing someone stressed out while they’re studying at a coffee shop. Either way, we have an idea of what compassion is and how it may show up in our daily lives.
Knowing this, how often have you thought about the concept of self-compassion? As Dr. Kristen Heff would define it, self-compassion is simply compassion turned inward, showing the same amount of sympathy, empathy, support, and understanding to yourself as you would someone else. When we are going through our own mental and physical battles, it can be grueling to offer ourselves the same kindness we would offer a friend or stranger. For some, it may seem like you are the exception to self-compassion… that you are too far gone, too messed up, or not good enough to offer even the slightest amount of compassion to. In the same way that we may validate the emotions that those close to you experience, self-compassion allows you to do the same thing with yourself: validating yourself and your experiences. By doing so, you’re allowing yourself the space to recognize that what you’re going through is hard, and the emotions accompanying it are hard too.
One great way to practice self-compassion is by talking with yourself the same way you would talk to a friend. If they were going through exactly what you were, what would you tell them? Would you tell them to get over it or to let it go? No, probably not. You can also imagine yourself as the little child you once were and how you might show compassion to them! The feelings you have towards yourself begin to shift when you realize who you’re talking to.
Another way you can practice self-compassion is by writing a letter to yourself (whatever version of yourself that you’re imagining) and writing as if you’re talking to someone in need. At the end of the day, stand up to that voice inside you that is so critical! Maybe ask yourself, “Why am I saying these things about myself?”
It may come as no surprise to you that a lack of self-compassion or higher level of self-criticism makes us feel weaker and more insecure. Practicing self-compassion allows us to accept our mistakes lovingly and move forward with understanding. We’re able to feel empowered and live life with an increased sense of strength.
You are just as deserving of self-compassion as anybody else.