When it comes to being compassionate, many lack the necessary emotional intelligence skills required to shift our focus on self-care and embrace self-compassion.
It’s not surprising that each of us is best suited to manage our self-care.
After all, we know what our mind, body, and soul need to fuel the pursuit of excellence and mindfulness. But for many, self-care and self-compassion are not a focus. Therefore these critical elements fall to the bottom of your daily "to-do" list—our time occupies many responsibilities, including caregiving and career. There is simply no time left to focus on YOU.
There is a correlation between self-compassion and mental health.
Exercising self-compassion is making a conscious decision to focus on your self-care. Self-compassion is defined as extending compassion to oneself in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. We all make mistakes, so we need to learn to be kinder and gentler with ourselves. Our performance is not enhanced when we are self-critical.
Dr. Kristin Neff has done pioneering research in the field of self-compassion at UCLA and is the author of Self-Compassion. She explains, “Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself, ‘this is really difficult right now, how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”
If you take care of yourself first, you’ll be better able to help others in need.
Self-care is a remarkable gift that keeps on giving. Airline flight attendants remind us of this before every flight to focus on self-care and put on our oxygen mask first should it suddenly drop from overhead. The reason? If you take care of yourself first, you'll be better able to help others in need. And yet, we often struggle to focus and provide appropriate self-care in this instance and so many others. It seems we are hard-wired to focus on the well-being of others instead of ourselves.
5 ways to improve self-compassion
Here are five of Dr. Neff’s strategies for improving self-compassion published by Psych Central:
- Consider how you’d treat someone else. The simplest thing you can do is to imagine what you’d do if someone you cared about came to you after failing or getting rejected.
- Watch your language. You may be so used to criticizing yourself that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it.
- Comfort yourself with a physical gesture. Kind physical gestures have an immediate effect on our bodies, activating the soothing parasympathetic system.
- Memorize a set of compassionate phrases. Whenever you find yourself saying, “I’m horrible,” it helps to have a few phrases at the ready. Pick statements that really resonate with you.
- Practice guided meditation. Meditation helps to retrain the brain. This way, self-compassionate gestures
andself-soothing become more natural.
Go ahead and try a few of these strategies. Spend some time placing your self-care first. If you find you're judging and criticizing yourself, stop and rephrase your words with positive self-talk. When you focus on self-care, you will find it much easier to be self-compassionate. After all, who said you're supposed to be perfect?
Strengthening your emotional intelligence will improve your self-awareness and support your self-care. To learn more about emotional intelligence, read this Emotional Intelligence: What it Means & Why it Matters. Check out many more motivational blogs here.
This article was originally published on April 21, 2018, and has been updated (January 2021).
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