Research suggests that people who practice self-compassion have healthier relationships, more compassion for others, and greater well-being. The opposite is true when you are self-critical. Surprisingly, self-compassion and self-criticism share the same goal. Both approaches tend to be utilized to motivate you toward success/safety. Therefore, self-compassion is a healthy way to find genuine success in your life.
Self-Compassion was first defined by Dr. Kristen Neff in her pioneering research on the subject. After becoming interested in Buddhism toward the end of her graduate degree at UC Berkley, Dr. Neff sought out a deeper understanding of the Buddhist concept called ‘self-kindness’, which lead her to the notion of self-compassion.
Self-compassion is a practice in which you show yourself love instead of judging yourself harshly. Imagine that your friend is going through what you are currently going through, and think to yourself, “What would I say to my friend?” Then, practice speaking to yourself in that same way. There are three components: mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity.
Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. In self-compassion, mindfulness is used to be courageously aware of difficult emotions. You must allow yourself to be aware of what you are feeling to show yourself compassion.
Self-kindness means actively comforting yourself and treating yourself with understanding. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “I’m so dumb”, or “How could I have done something so horrible!”, you may say, “This is really hard for me right now”, or “I am hurting right now”. This is the idea of responding to yourself the way in which you would respond to a close friend or loved one.
Common humanity is the knowledge that we are in this (life’s struggles) together, and that you are imperfect along with every other person in the world. It is knowing that whatever you are going through, other people are also experiencing those painful feelings. Being aware of this helps us to feel connected with those around us, leading to more compassion for ourselves and for them.
Self-compassion should be differentiated from self-esteem. Oftentimes, self-esteem is gained by comparing yourself to others, or telling yourself that you are better than others. The problem here is that you need to put others down, intentionally or not, to feel good about yourself. This causes a separation from others, which hinders happiness.
On the other hand, self-compassion utilized the idea of common humanity to remind you of your self-worth. This connects you more deeply to others, creating overall better results. Self-esteem says, “I matter because I can do better than others”, while self-compassion says, “I matter simply because I am human”.
If you are anything like most people, then you find yourself being self-critical all-too-often. But why do we do this? Self-criticism is a mechanism of protection. Unknowingly, you probably use self-criticism to avoid your own harsh judgments about needing to be/do better. Ironically, harsh judgment of yourself will lead to the opposite result. Instead of doing better, you will become more depression, less motivated, and often perform worse at whatever the task may be.
Self-criticism oftentimes stems from the fear that you are not good enough as you are. When you decide to be self-compassionate, on the other hand, what has been found is that it actually motivates us to do better because it gives us confidence. Like Carl Rogers, (a pioneer in the field of counseling/psychotherapy) said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change”.
To learn more about self-compassion, visit Dr. Neff’s website.
Remember that it can be hard to learn to love yourself. If you are feeling stuck or having a hard time using these concepts on your own, reach out for some support. There are many ways to learn self-compassion and mental health counseling is just one of those ways. Contact Orlando Thrive Therapy today to get back on the right track.
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.