If you struggle with the concept of being kind to yourself, consider these questions. When you’ve made a mistake do you find that you turn on yourself? Do you reprimand and blame yourself perhaps muttering sentiments such as “I’m no good at this,” or “I’m out of my depth.” So now apart from the actual problem, you have added another layer of distress by being unkind to yourself. We often don’t notice when we are attacking ourselves, as it happens so automatically. Nevertheless, the relentless self-criticism does make us feel even worse.
Now consider this scenario. Your close friend tells you they made the very same gaffe and they’re feeling bad about it. What do you do? You probably show understanding and love, and perhaps you reassure them. Funny that. So, we generally treat other people with much more compassion than we do ourselves.
So, why not try self-compassion for a change, and learn to be kinder to yourself. Self-compassion is not to be confused with self-pity, self-esteem or being selfish. “When we learn to love, understand and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person,” explained the much-revered Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hahn. Even if it feels odd at first, we can develop a healthy habit of being kind to ourselves and that’s good for our wellbeing.
Here’s some ways to try out self-compassion.
- Next time you’re feeling blue treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend.
- Read and follow the practices in the Mindful Self Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, pioneers of self-compassion.
- Secure a place for yourself on the Mindful Self-Compassion workshop led by the two authors (above) in Brighton on 2-3 July 2022. You can find out more and get your tickets here.
Like many others, you may discover that self-compassion opens you up to deeper, warmer connections with others.
This article first appeared in the Brighton & Hove Independent to coincide with Valentine’s Day. The author, Julia Powell is an associate mindfulness teacher at the Sussex Mindfulness Centre, a part of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The Centre brings together mindfulness practice, research and training to help people improve their mental health and wellbeing.
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