What Are The Benefits Of Self-Compassion?

-Dr. Debora Spradling

In this fast-paced world with its unending list of demands and the harsh expectations for perfection, is it worth it to be a little kinder to ourselves? We so often believe that the force that will take us to our goals is one of harsh criticism and zero forgiveness. However, we can quickly see how that voice in your head that tells you to move forward or you will never be good enough, is the one holding you back. In the midst of this cycle, Self-compassion allows for a change in perspective. Self-compassion becomes the safe space we can retreat to, to find a truer source of motivation to get us to where we want to go.

Self-compassion refers to the practice of showing ourselves the same love and kindness that we can be quick to show others. Let’s understand together what that may look like.

Understanding Self-Compassion 
Studies done by Dr. Kristin Neff in her self-compassion institute have shown that there are three key components of self-compassion:

  • Self-Kindness: Instead of harsh self-criticism, self-compassion encourages us to be gentle and understanding toward ourselves. In self-compassion we take time to recognize that everyone makes mistakes and faces challenges, so that we can then extend the same care and kindness to ourselves as we would to someone we love who is struggling. 
  • Common Humanity: We can take the time to remember that suffering and setbacks are universal human experiences. When life becomes challenging, we can recognize that we are not alone in our struggles. Recognizing our shared humanity can ease feelings of isolation and self-judgment.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of holding our thoughts and feelings as they are, without any self-judgment. It’s about acknowledging our emotions and experiences in a non-reactive, non-evaluative manner. When we practice mindfulness, it allows us to explore and understand our inner dialogue so we can take the steps we need to take care of ourselves. 

Benefits of Self-Compassion

Being kinder to ourselves has been shown to mitigate the negative effects of self-criticism and perfectionism and improve overall mental health. Additionally, self-compassion can help us to become more resilient. When we learn to approach challenges with self-compassion, we become less likely to dwell on failures and more inclined to view them as opportunities for growth, giving us a greater strength to keep pressing on. Self-compassion can also help us to develop healthier relationships. When we’re kinder to ourselves, we are generally more patient, empathetic, and understanding toward others, as we have more emotional capacity to care well for others.

So, take the time today to maybe:

  • Check in with your self-talk. Are the words you are using to spur yourself on ones of criticism and shame? Take a minute to replace a self-critical thought with a kind one, maybe the words you would use to encourage a friend.
  • Create a self-compassionate affirmation. Create affirmations that promote self-compassion! What does your heart need to hear from you today?
  • Practice mindfulness meditation. Let yourself slow down for just a few minutes and focus on your breath. How are you really feeling? Use this time to cultivate self-awareness and non-judgmental self-observation about how you are doing and what you need.
  • Remember common humanity. You are not alone in your pain and struggles. Reach out to a loved one or a mental health profession and take up a little space to share what’s on your mind.

Self-compassion may look like little changes in the way we talk to ourselves, but it may just make a big difference! When life feels heavy, remember that you can be a really good friend for yourself, offering the same warmth and understanding you’d extend to someone you care about.