(Photo Credit: Thich Nhat Hanh, Calligraphy)
By Christine Brady, MA
When was the last time you recall hearing something like the following; “I can’t believe that you did that, what an idiot, you are so stupid, you always mess everything up.” Would you be surprised to know that many people speak to themselves like this on a daily basis?
While most of us would never dream of saying something so toxic to others we may have no problem speaking to ourselves this way. It may seem natural to respond with compassion and empathy to others that may be struggling while at the same time we may choose not to extend that same consideration to ourselves. It’s as if we believe that by coming down hard on ourselves we will somehow improve our performance.
Life naturally includes challenges and setbacks. We can add to the impact of intense events in our lives by colluding with an internalized bully. Constantly ruminating about past mistakes, current errors, and potential future gaffs keeps you out of the present moment and can exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, relationship problems, and difficulty in recovering from setbacks.
Developing a sense of self-compassion isn’t merely positive thinking or repeating mantras in an attempt to quiet your internal bully, it is based in the relationship that we have with ourselves. Self-compassion is the willingness to treat ourselves with the same caring support that we extend to others.
Self-compassion balances the truth of a situation such as “I made a mistake” with the ability to realize that making a mistake does not diminish your worth and value. This allows you to both acknowledge what happened directly while avoiding the feelings of shame that can lead to feelings of hopelessness, thereby increasing the level of difficulty in finding solutions.
Self-compassion is a skill that allows us to navigate our humanness with objectivity, empathy, understanding, and kindness. It is a way in which we can relate to ourselves both when we’re struggling and when things are going well. This compassionate view of ourselves brings light to the dark places, soothes the soul, and provides a safe space for imagining creative solutions to everyday problems.
The following is adapted from KimFredrickson.com (2015) We All Need Kindness, Identifying Self-Compassionate Ways that we can relate to Ourselves.
Truths We Can Share with Ourselves
- You are valuable and precious, no matter what is happening
- Even in the suffering you are going through, you are valuable and of great worth
- Most people do the best they can with what they have. It is true that we want to live as healthy lives as possible, and it is also true that there are deep reasons why we make choices that can cause us harm
- It is ok, and normal to be angry, confused, sad, and all jumbled up inside. These feelings are a normal and necessary part of the process of adjusting to what you are going through
- Allow yourself to have and express your feelings if possible, because this expression cleanses and will subside
- No matter what is happening, you can be a good friend to yourself
- Take this time to allow your body/mind/spirit to heal. This is just as important as other things you need to do. Make sure care of yourself is in your schedule
- Listen to yourself (your heart, feelings, thoughts, body, and spirit). What do you need right now? What would a really good friend do for you right now? You can be that friend
- You are going through such a difficult time. What would the kindest person you know say to you right now?
- Give yourself time to have a good cry and sleep. This may be just what you need
- Breathe….and Rest…and be Kind…to You!
Fredrickson, K. (2015, November 19). We all need kindness. [web log post] Retrieved December 4, 2015 from http://www.kimfredrickson.com/we-all-need-kindness/
Fredrickson, K. (2015). Give yourself a break turning your inner critic into a compassionate friend. Grand Rapids, MI: Revell.