What is Self Compassion and why is it important?
Self-Compassion is an acceptance of ones own shortcomings. Brisbane counselling expert, Linda Thomson, explains why you need to practice self compassion …
Once upon a time, there was a woman who after 20 years of marriage, went through an extremely ugly divorce.
In search of her “happy ever after”, she joined a dating site and met somebody interesting online. They had much in common and he seemed very keen, so they decided to go on a first date.
However, just ten minutes into the date the man excused himself, thanked her for her time, but said that he just wasn’t interested in taking things any further. Devastated, the woman phoned her best friend.
“Well what did you expect?” her friend asked. “Why would a handsome successful man like that, be interested in somebody like you?!”
Of course, we would be horrified if a friend actually said something like this – but the reality is, this is how many of us talk to ourselves. We haven’t learned to practice self-compassion.
What is Self-Compassion?
As mental health and self compassion expert, Kristen Neffs explains, “Self-compassion is a way of relating to ourselves kindly, embracing ourselves as we are, flaws and all.”
It’s about becoming our own best friend.
As the Buddha once expressed it: “You can search the universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself and that person is not to be found. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
Self-compassion is nurturing ourselves – body AND soul.
If we are hurt physically, we take care of the wound. But how often do we tend to our psychological injuries? Yet psychological injuries like failure, rejection, guilt and loneliness, hurt much more than physical ones, and can have a devastating impact.
But because we can’t see the psychological injuries, often we just ignore them. Because we can’t see depression, we think we can just move on and get over it. But how foolish would it be to tell somebody with a broken leg: Just move on and get over it?!
We compound the problem by not only ignoring our psychological wounds – often we pick at them to make them worse! You wouldn’t make a physical injury worse on purpose, yet this is what we do with our psychological ones. When we focus so much time and energy on upsetting and negative thoughts about ourselves, we put ourselves at risk of depression, anxiety, alcoholism, eating disorders, and even heart disease!
Clearly, even though psychological wounds might be invisible, they can be just as life-threatening as physical ones.
Wounds need to be carefully looked after to bring healing, whether physical or psychological.
Practising self-compassion is about learning to nurture ourselves, and putting our own emotional bandages on. Sometimes, just like with a physical injury, we can benefit from the involvement of a health professional.
How to Practise Self-Compassion
There are many ways that you can start to practise self-compassion:
First of all, begin treating yourself with kindness instead of with harsh self-judgement. Remember the woman at the beginning of this article? Would you talk to a friend, the way you talk to yourself?
Remember – we are all imperfect and our lives are imperfect.
A counsellor or therapist can help you in a number of ways, such as by showing you Mindfulness strategies, to help you embrace what is, in the present moment. Often we aren’t even aware of our own suffering! Ruminating is a nasty habit that battles our ideas of self, and keeps us stuck. By employing mindfulness techniques, you can step outside and see your mind for what it is doing. Distraction and meditation are other great tools to help you break a negative self-talk habit.
Take Care of your Emotional Hygiene
American psychologist, author, and keynote speaker Guy Winch PhD, calls the practice of self compassion, “emotional hygiene”.
A hundred years ago, people began practising personal hygiene, and life expectancy rose dramatically.
By practising emotional hygiene – self-compassion – and looking after our psychological wellbeing, treating ourselves kindly, and tending to any emotional injuries with loving care, we can expect a similar improvement in our own personal quality of life.