Self-compassion: why you need it and how to get it

self-compassion, self care, self improvement, personal growth, boundaries

Self-compassion simply means caring about yourself as you care about others. You offer yourself the same level of support and understanding you would a friend or family member.

In many ways, we treat others better than ourselves. We’d never berate someone else for making a mistake the way we do ourselves. Or call them a failure for falling short of a goal.

If you tend to criticize rather than comfort yourself when you’re going through something hard, you need more self-compassion in your life.

If you tend to criticize rather than comfort yourself when you're going through something hard, you need more self-compassion. Click To Tweet

Dr. Kristen Neff has studied and written a book on the topic of self-compassion. She defines the term as kindness and understanding toward yourself in the face of your personal failings.

Here are the three major ways she says we can demonstrate self-compassion.

1. Kindness toward yourself is self-compassion

It’s common to jump to criticism of ourselves when we feel we’re falling short. We forget what God thinks about us. We forget that he says to come to him when we are weary and need rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Instead, we scold ourselves for not being good enough. We push harder rather than extending ourselves grace.

Sometimes, when we haven’t learned to do self-compassion well, we turn to unhealthy substitutes. How many moms do you know who use wine for comfort because they’re missing the true solace of sleep and time alone?

Be kind to yourself when things don’t turn out the way you expected. Or when you fail at something that was important to you. Failure means you tried and it’s a necessary step on the road to success.

2. Shared human experience

When something bad happens, are you convinced you’re the only person in the world who feels this way? When you’re down or things aren’t going your way, do you tend to isolate?

You might fall into the trap of feeling inadequate for falling short of perfection. But everyone falls short of this standard. In fact, God makes it clear he loves us in spite of our imperfections.

When you’re going through a difficult time it’s important to remember that everyone goes through those times. When you fail at something, you’re in good company because everybody fails at times.

It’s in our sufferings and shortcomings that we find connection with others. Have you ever seen a friendship deepen when you decided to share something hard or embarrassing?

Rather than letting your down times separate you from the world, use them to create bonds of intimacy. Reaching out to others is a form of self-compassion.

Rather than letting your down times separate you from the world, use them to create bonds of intimacy. Click To Tweet

You might be surprised at what someone else shares with you when you take the risk to be vulnerable with them.

3. Feeling all your emotions is self-compassion

We tend to identify certain emotions as positive and others as negative. We celebrate joy and victory, and push down or deny the ones that don’t feel as good.

But all our emotions have something to tell us. It’s necessary to engage with them in their entirety for a healthy, balanced life.

When we fail to acknowledge sadness, it can lead to darker depression or physical illness. Relentless positive thinking takes away the opportunity to grow and learn from our valley experiences.

If we push away anger we miss the important signals it gives about what needs to change in our lives. We miss the transformative opportunities of listening and responding to our anger rather than fearing it.

If we push away anger we miss important signals about what needs to change in our lives. Click To Tweet

Give yourself permission to sink into your emotions. Trust God to be with you in the well and accept that he has something to teach you in this wilderness.

You don’t need to push away inconvenient feelings to get on with things. They help you learn more about yourself and what you want.

That’s how your life becomes more aligned with who you are.

When you feel all your feelings, you neither minimize nor blow them out of proportion. You accept them for what they are and let them give you the messages they’re designed to give.

Then, you can take that information and apply it to your future. Rather than berating yourself, you can decide to do things differently next time.

Or you might need to set some firm and appropriate boundaries with the people in your life.

Approach your feelings with a spirit of curiosity and non-judgment and remember they are all valid. Accept the gentle lessons and stop beating yourself up for being human.

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