Show Some Compassion! For Yourself!
Written By Jessica Winder, MA
A common trend we see in clients across diagnoses is a lack of space given for their own emotions. There is little room for mistakes and a lot of room for the voice inside our heads that critique everything we do.
This is why I often assign clients with this homework assignment: treat yourself like your own best friend. At first, that might mean engaging in self-care like taking a bubble bath, reading that book you’ve been meaning to start, or ordering the chocolate shake you’ve been craving. Over time, we realize that treating ourselves like our own best friend means something different…that we talk to ourselves like we would a friend going through a similar struggle. We treat that friend with kindness, we allow them the space to feel how they feel, we can empathize with them.
That is showing your friend some compassion. It’s time you did the same for yourself!
Self-compassion involves the acceptance of oneself and includes sensitivity to suffering, understanding, and forgiveness of the self. It has three components (Neff, 2003): self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to being caring to oneself. Common humanity refers to the idea that all human beings (self included) have flaws and face struggles. Finally, mindfulness refers to our awareness of our experiences; we neither avoid nor exaggerate our painful feelings. When we don’t show ourselves compassion, we risk feeling isolated and judged.
Showing ourselves compassion is associated with a lot of positive benefits including improved emotional and physical well-being, interpersonal relationships, and therapy outcomes. When we grow in self-compassion, we might observe decreases in depression, anxiety, and self-criticism among other benefits.
How does one practice self-compassion? Luckily, there are a lot of options! If you enjoy writing, you can start a self-compassion journal. There are also exercises available in using supportive touch or listening exercises. Don’t have a lot of time? That’s not a problem at all. Using a self-compassion break regularly grants you five minutes of calm during your busy day and may also helping you reach your therapeutic goals.
And remember, if you are not sure where to start, just ask yourself how you would treat your own best friend?
For resources on self-compassion, check out https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations for meditations and exercises.