Compassion is part of life yet a lot of people still find the words self-compassion and self-love alienating, especially those who were raised in families where compassion is lacking or even non‑existent.
But it has been proven that having compassion for oneself is the foundation of having compassion for others. It is a fundamental skill that we all must learn to live a better life. The question is: how can you cultivate self‑compassion?
Self-compassion is relating to oneself with kindness.
Perhaps there is no better definition of self-compassion than the one given by renowned psychologist and self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff: “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings‑after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?”
Self-compassion is different from conceit or arrogance in the sense that it involves self-love. It simply means being kind to yourself whether in good or bad times, and even if you make mistakes.
Self-compassion is acknowledging pain and failures.
The first step to being more self-compassionate is to acknowledge that sometimes you feel pain, you fail, and make mistakes, instead of criticizing yourself for feeling that way.
People who have compassion for themselves know that life will have its up and downs, and painful experiences are inevitable. Denying this fact simply causes stress, self-criticism and frustration. But accepting it breeds kindness, sympathy and better emotional stability.
Self-compassion is knowing that personal inadequacy is part of being human.
When you are in a state of suffering and pain, it’s easy to think that you are the only one going through it, which often leads to frustration and a sense of isolation. But learning how to be self-compassionate means acknowledging that you are human, so you are imperfect, mortal and vulnerable to pain, suffering and personal inadequacy. You know that you are not alone in this experience because other humans are also going through it, so you don’t have to be too hard on yourself.
Self-compassion is learning how to be rational.
When you learn to be compassionate to yourself, you know how to be mindful about dealing with the situation to avoid suppressing your feelings.
Since you are aware that you are not the only one going through suffering, you also learn how to relate your experiences to others putting things into a larger perspective. Dr. Kristin Neff puts it this way: “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feelings as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them. We cannot ignore our pain and feel compassion for it at the same time.”
The road to self-compassion is worthwhile
Self-compassion is definitely one of the skills that we should master in life. In a time when everything seems so fast-paced and demanding, it’s always good to be aware of who we are and what we are capable of, so we can live better and happier lives.