Self-compassion means to extend kindness to ourselves even in the face of challenge. Compassion for ourselves is something that we need to practice with intention because it is not as easy to cultivate as we might think. In our culture, we are often taught to push ourselves. We are rewarded for being the best we can be. While it can be a great thing to attempt to show up as the best version of ourselves, the problem arises when we learn that making mistakes or failing should result in shame, punishment and self-criticism.
When others that we love and respect fall short, we are often the first to offer support and understanding; however, we struggle to offer ourselves the same level of empathy and understanding. While self-compassion is often difficult for people, it is also something that we can learn to do with practice. Self-compassion can be a life changing for people because it alters their relationship with themselves and others.
Here are three ways to increase your practice of self-compassion daily:
1) Give yourself the gift of understanding – Next time you falter take a breath and offer yourself the same kinds of empathetic thoughts you might share with your closest friends or family members. It can be useful to write down a few phrases that are meaningful to you on a card that you place in your wallet or purse. Something like: “It is ok to make a mistake.” or “You showed up as your best self today.” See if you can repeat them to yourself when you find yourself ruminating on a mistake or misstep.
2) Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment on purpose. This practice builds our capacity to be compassionate. One of my most favorite practices are loving-kindness meditations because they ae focused on building compassion for ourselves and others. Here are links to some loving-kindness meditations that I find useful:
UCLA Loving-Kindness Practice (9 min)
Jack Kornfield Compassion Meditation (11 min)
Tara Brach Loving-Kindness Mediation (22 min)
3) Build a Gratitude Practice – Learning to notice things we are grateful for is something that we need to do each day. A wonderful habit to get into is to name two things each night that you are grateful for. Give yourself time to appreciate yourself by noticing what you did well that day. The things you notice do not have to be things you did gracefully or even really well, in fact, it may be better to notice how you handled struggle or mistakes. The most important thing is that you take time regularly to offer yourself love and appreciation.
Being able to offer ourselves compassion builds our resilience and love for ourselves. The practice is not just about noticing what we do well but is also about making room for mistakes, struggles and limitations. I would ask you to image what your life might be life if you could offer yourself a bit more understanding and empathy each day.