22 Dec What is Self Compassion?
Compassion is the ability to show empathy, love, and concern to people who are in difficulty, and self-compassion is simply the ability to direct these same emotions within.
Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore a homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience.
Self-compassion involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Self-compassion allows individuals to accept themselves as they are, including the limitations and imperfections that make them human.
Self-Compassion is not self-pity.
Self-compassion is different from self pity, which is a state of mind or emotional response of a person believing to be a victim and lacking the confidence and competence to cope with an adverse situation. When individuals feel self-pity, they become immersed in their own problems and forget that others have similar problems. Self-pitying individuals often become carried away with and wrapped up in their own emotional drama. They cannot step back from their situation and adopt a more balanced or objective perspective.
In contrast, by taking the perspective of a compassionate other towards oneself, “mental space” is provided to recognize the broader human context of one’s experience and to put things in greater perspective.
“Yes it is very difficult what I’m going through right now, but it’s normal and natural for human beings to struggle at times. I’m not alone …”
Self-Compassion is not self-indulgence.
Self-compassion is also very different from self-indulgence. Many people say they are reluctant to be self-compassionate because they’re afraid they would let themselves get away with anything. “I’m stressed out today so to be kind to myself I’ll just watch TV all day in bed.” This, however, is self-indulgence rather than self-compassion. Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term. In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (such as smoking a pack a day, spending recklessly, being a couch potato), while giving yourself health and lasting happiness often involves a certain amount of displeasure (such as quitting smoking, saving money, exercising).
Self-Compassion is not self-esteem.
Although self-compassion may seem similar to self-esteem, they are different in many ways. Self-esteem refers to our sense of self-worth, perceived value, or how much we like ourselves. While there is little doubt that low self-esteem is problematic and often leads to depression and lack of motivation, trying to have higher self-esteem can also be problematic.
In modern Western culture, it is not okay to be average, we have to feel above average to feel good about ourselves. This means that attempts to raise self-esteem may result in narcissistic, self-absorbed behaviour, or lead us to put others down in order to feel better about ourselves. We also tend to get angry and aggressive towards those who have said or done anything that potentially makes us feel bad about ourselves. The need for high self-esteem may encourage us to ignore, distort or hide personal shortcomings so that we can’t see ourselves clearly and accurately. Finally, our self-esteem is often contingent on our latest success or failure, meaning that our self-esteem fluctuates depending on ever-changing circumstances.
In contrast to self-esteem, self-compassion is not based on self-evaluations. People feel compassion for themselves because all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself. Self-compassion also allows for greater self-clarity, because personal failings can be acknowledged with kindness and do not need to be hidden. Moreover, self-compassion isn’t dependent on external circumstances, it’s always available – especially when you fall flat on your face!
Research indicates that in comparison to self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with greater emotional resilience, more accurate self-concepts, more caring relationship behaviour, as well as less narcissism and reactive anger.
Research indicates that self-compassionate individuals experience greater than those who lack self-compassion. For example, self-compassion is positively associated with , , , , , learning goals, , personal responsibility, and . At the same time, it is associated with a lower tendency for , depression, , , , , and disordered eating attitudes.
Things will not always go the way you want them to. You will encounter frustrations, losses will occur, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your ideals. This is the human condition, a reality shared by all of us. However, 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.
At the end of the day, you are not perfect, you will fail and make mistakes. So instead of criticizing yourself or getting upset, ask yourself this, if my best friend was feeling down because they didn’t achieve what they hoped, what would you say to them? Could you extend that same response to yourself?
If you are struggling with being compassionate towards yourself, reach out for help. There are things that will help so that you can hold yourself in a more compassionate light.