Almost everyone has heard of self-esteem. It’s fortunately being talked about more frequently within society. However, another concept about the self that needs to be addressed along with self-esteem, is self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as “being warm and understanding towards ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate rather than ignoring our pain”(). Self-compassion is the idea that just as we offer kindness and compassion to others when they fall short, we offer the same to ourselves. Why does it tend to be so much easier to offer compassion to others and not ourselves?
We are not perfect. No matter how hard we try, we will never be perfect. Self-compassion meets us in our imperfection. It allows us to say, “I messed up but I still have value and am still important”. When we show ourselves self-compassion we are admitting that we are flawed but we are not beating ourselves up for it. Therefore, because we are not perfect, we must offer ourselves grace. We will certainly make mistakes and when we do, how can we best learn from it? Do we talk negatively to ourselves and beat ourselves up adding to our shame and guilt? Or, perhaps, do we admit our shortcomings, realize we can learn from it, and move forward in our lives?
Here are a few practical ways to practice self-compassion in your own life:
- Practice mindfulness when you make mistakes. Acknowledge and observe the mistake by being nonjudgemental towards it. (attp://self-compassion.org). Then we can turn from it knowing that there is a lesson to be taken away from it.
- Promote self-care. Rather than over-working yourself after you've made a mistake, take time to relax. Spend the day outside or go see a movie by yourself. Whatever helps you feel refreshed and renewed.
- Turn to a trusted friend or counselor. We all make mistakes and sometimes it's helpful just to know we are not alone in it.
- Create a gratitude journal. Look at the good events/feelings that occur daily and focus on those things.
- Leave room for imperfection. By acknowledging daily that you are not perfect, you are not setting yourself up for a losing battle. Even though no one is perfect, it doesn't mean we can't love others and love ourselves well.
So next time you find yourself being harsh in your shortcomings, remember that we are all together in our imperfection and you are not alone. Talk to yourself as you would a loved-one and know that no matter what happens you are loved, important, and valued.
Lauren Puckett | MA, LPC