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Self-Compassion – Treating Yourself as You Would a Good Friend

Would you tell a friend that they are stupid and worthless for making a mistake? Would you tell them they can’t do something because they aren’t good enough?

Then why is it acceptable for you to say those things to yourself?

Kristen Neff defines self-compassion as the ability to “act the same way towards yourself as you would a good friend when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a “stiff upper lip” mentality, you stop to tell yourself “this is really difficult right now,” how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

She continues, “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?”

This is not an act of pity, selfishness, or false positivity. It’s an act of love you can give yourself this very moment!

Start extending the same compassion you so easily give to others to yourself. Here are three exercises to help you begin:

  1. Take the Self-Compassion Scale (http://self-compassion.org/test-how-self-compassionate-you-are/) to help better understand whether your own self-compassion is low, moderate, or high. It will also give you a good look into the different elements of self-compassion.
  2. Thought distancing: We have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day. Not all of them are nice, and not all of them are true. Distancing involves stopping ourselves, taking a step back, and observing our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and the reality of the situation before interpreting or making judgements.

    For example, you made a mistake at work and begin to feel upset. You start noticing your face get warm and your heart rate increasing. You think to yourself, “Man, I’m so stupid! This is going to take me forever to fix, my boss is going to be so mad!” Immediately, you have placed judgement on yourself and somehow predicted the future. Try a more neutral approach instead: “I made a mistake on this form and I notice that I’m experiencing the feeling of frustration right now.” By simply changing the language to “I notice that…” or “I am having the feeling of…” you distance yourself from self-criticism and get rid of such harsh judgment!

  3. Finally – and perhaps the simplest of them all – when you notice yourself beginning to feel stressed, frustrated, sad, or alone take a moment to close your eyes. Place your hand over your heart and take a few deep breaths. Inhaling and exhaling in a way that is comfortable for you.  Allow yourself this moment of suffering; feel it with all that you are and watch it pass.

About the Author

Kelsi Rather, LAC, NCC is a licensed associate counselor currently working in Glendale, Arizona. She is passionate about highlighting the necessity of mental health care and focuses on helping those within the community.


Feature photo credit: Guillaume de Germain

About the author