When it comes to being compassionate, many of us sorely lack the necessary self-care skills required to shift the focus to ourselves 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 a pursuit of excellence and mindfulness. But for many of us, self-care and self-compassion are not part of our focus and fall to the bottom of our daily “to do” list. Our days are filled with many responsibilities including caregiving and career. At the end of the day, 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 one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. We all make mistakes, so we need to learn to be 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.
Airline flight attendants remind us before every flight to focus on self-care and put our own oxygen mask on 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 in so many others.
5 ways to improve self-compassion
- 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.