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Self-Compassion

The Importance of Self-Compassion

It is much more challenging for humans to be compassionate towards themselves than others. You might find yourself more willing to give up your time and resources for others than you are to give yourself. Maybe you are hard on yourself if you missed the gym today, whereas you may be kinder to your friends if they told you they also missed the gym. You may tell yourself you should go to work even if you’re sick, but tell your friend that rest is essential to recovery and productivity. If this resonates with you, it may be helpful for you to engage in self-compassion.

woman comforting a sad woman

According to psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion “involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself.” Self-compassion is necessary for us to recognize our humanity and accept our imperfections. Self-compassion requires you to move away from self-criticism. While many may agree with this logic, it is much harder to practice this in our day-to-day life. Below are some strategies that you can use to help you live a more self-compassionate life.

  1. Think about how you would treat your friend if they were experiencing hardships. How would you listen to them, support them, and encourage them? Go through that process and tell yourself that you deserve the same kindness. 
  2. Nurturing yourself. Take some time to reflect on the importance of filling your cup before you do others. The people you care for and/or depend on you cannot thrive if you do not nurture yourself in the ways your body needs. 
  3. Engage in cognitive reframing. Instead of being critical of yourself for various reasons, recognize ways in which you can foster positivity. For example, instead of saying, “I am not doing enough,” you can say, “I can only do so much in one day. This is enough.” 
  4. Spend time doing the hobbies that bring you joy. This is a reminder that the human body needs time to recuperate. 
  5. Utilize your five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Notice the things around you that are easy to miss when going through the motions. For example, see what is around you and point them out. Ask yourself what you hear around you, whether it be music, chattering, or white noise. This exercise may help you slow down and be present in the moment. Life is often too demanding already - taking time to notice the things around you can help you find gratitude for all that you are already doing. 
  6. Find an accountability partner. Once you do that, remind one another of your strengths. Affirm all of the things you both are doing well in, and sit in that truth.

Self-compassion is a practice that takes time to learn. Just like learning a new skill, it will always be hard in the beginning. With hard work, you will develop the skills you need to become proficient. Similarly, consistency and accountability will help you become more kind to yourself. When we learn to be more self-compassionate, we invite others around us to be our most authentic selves. It normalizes the challenges of life, while working to find meaning in the most mundane of days. 

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Amanda Lo MSW, APSW, LCSW

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Amanda Lo MSW, APSW, LCSW

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