One of my biggest pet peeves while being around people I care about is to hear them criticize themselves with negative self-talk. Examples of this are “I’m so stupid. I can never do anything right”, “I am not good enough“, "I suck”, or "I’m an idiot."
Negative thoughts arise for all of us. But, with mindfulness we can redirect self judgement and elicit healthier responses. It starts by acknowledging, “These are the thoughts and emotions that are arising in my conscious awareness in the present moment.” This type of simple statement of fact has no blame attached. We don’t need to lambaste ourselves for thinking those nasty thoughts or feeling those destructive emotions. We can simply let them go. As long as we don’t get lost in a storyline that justifies and reinforces them, they will tend to dissipate on their own.
"A weed that is not given water will eventually wither and fade away. At the same time, when a wholesome thought or feeling arises, we can hold it in loving awareness and allow it to fully blossom”. - Kristin Neff
I challenge you to start putting self-compassion in your life. Making it as important to your daily regimen as brushing your teeth. Self-compassion is offering yourself the comfort and compassion you would offer to a friend confronted with a similar situation they may be struggling with. Noticing we all experience difficult times connects us, and giving ourselves the gift of self-compassion and self-love then allows us to offer love and compassion to others.
There are some easy ways to provide yourself with compassion. Soothing touch and meditation exercises are ways you can start your journey into self-compassion. Think of it as a way of life that you choose to help manage emotions both big and small. Try paying attention to your thoughts and when you notice you are being unkind to yourself. Perhaps allow your hand to come to your heart as a gesture of kindness.
A traditional Buddhist practice to direct kindness to oneself and others is called “loving kindness meditation.” A good technique in the practice of self-compassion is having three loving kindness phrases to say silently to yourself when difficult emotions or situations arise. An example of a loving kindness phrase is "May I be at peace, May I be healthy, and May I live with ease." You can also say these phrases directed towards a dear friend loved one or someone you know is struggling. These phrases cultivate goodwill and your wish for happiness and health for yourself and others.
Having a self-compassion tool kit can help you take care of yourself in times you struggle in daily life. These 5 examples are just a couple tools to use for self-compassion.
Physical (Relax the body) Exercise, get a massage, take a warm bath, sip a cup of tea.
Mental (Reduce agitation) Meditate, watch a funny movie, read an inspiring book.
Emotional (Soothe and comfort yourself) Have a good cry, pet the dog or cat, listen to music.
Relational (Connect with others) Meet with friends, send a birthday card, play a game.
Spiritual (Commit to your values) Pray, walk in the woods, help others.
The challenge, of course, is to remember to do these self-care activities when we struggle in daily life. Go ahead – you can do it. Why not start by incorporating one activity listed above? I believe in you!
References: Neff, K. D. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2, 85-102.
(Original article: https://www.theconativegroup.com/post/start-practicing-self-compassion)