Most of us are fortunate enough to have at least one person in our lives who is there to lend an ear, offer words of support and show kindness when we’re navigating a difficult time. And we happily do the same for them when they’re struggling. Unfortunately, we’re not as good at offering ourselves the same level of support and kindness, especially in our most challenging moments.
Self-compassion is a powerful tool in helping to foster a more supportive relationship with yourself. It begins with noticing how you currently treat yourself, then taking gradual steps to transform your internal world while also caring for yourself in practical ways.
Practise mindful self-awareness
Mindfulness is the first component of self-compassion. Before you can change your relationship with yourself, you need to tune in and become mindfully aware of your thoughts and emotions. As you create greater awareness of your internal experience, notice how you speak to yourself. Instead of getting caught in self-criticism or a spiral of negative thinking, mindful awareness gives you the space to step back and observe your feelings and thoughts with openness and curiosity. Acknowledge any self-criticism without escalating it and begin to extend the same kindness, patience, and understanding to yourself that you’d offer a friend.
Embrace your imperfection
The next step toward self-compassion is embracing your imperfection. We are all human, which means we are also inherently flawed, yet still, we carry an intrinsic sense of worthiness. Rather than fixating on your shortcomings or weaknesses, accept them as a part of what makes you unique. Acknowledge and embrace your strengths and remind yourself that imperfection is an integral part of the human experience.
Practise the language of self-kindness
Consider the words you typically use to comfort a friend and begin to offer that same kindness to yourself. When you’re facing challenges or setbacks, instead of saying to yourself, ‘I’m useless,’ or ‘I’m an idiot’, try instead, ‘It’s okay, everyone makes mistakes.’ Shifting from self-criticism to self-kindness is a clear indication that you’re nurturing your self-compassion.
Recognise the shared experience
Remind yourself that you’re not alone in experiencing vulnerability. Despite outward appearances, all humans encounter difficult emotions and experiences from time to time; but they may not display them openly. Consider the people around you who are currently facing adversity to reinforce your innate sense of compassion for others – an important step that will help you also cultivate more compassion for yourself.
Holding onto guilt and shame will prevent you from healing and moving forward with your life. Remind yourself that as flawed human beings, we all make mistakes and instead of dwelling on regrets, we can focus on the insights gained and the growth we’ve achieved through challenges. Then, extend the same warmth and forgiveness to yourself that you would offer to someone in a similar situation.
Set stronger boundaries
Creating clear boundaries is an important act of self-compassion. Boundaries are your way of saying, ‘I care about myself enough to protect my energy and well-being.’ Whether it’s saying ‘no’ to a commitment that overwhelms you, asking someone to treat you differently or distancing yourself from a difficult relationship, setting boundaries is an essential step for maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself.
As well as taking care of your internal experience, make self-care a greater priority in your life. This doesn’t necessarily mean indulging in extravagances but rather dedicating time to engage in everyday activities that nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, practising yoga, spending time in nature or simply savouring a cup of tea, these small acts of self-kindness can profoundly impact your wellbeing. They’re also a reminder to yourself that you deserve the same kind of care you would offer to others.