Are you the kind of person who is always there showing kindness, empathy and affection to friends and family when they have made a mistake, not lived up to some expectation, or when they are going through a really tough time? Are you the one full of compassion, asking them what they need right now to help them through it, offering encouraging words, reminding them they are only human or helping them see the positive lesson in the failure?
Next question – when it is you who has made the mistake, not lived up to an expectation (probably your own!) or going through a tough time, are you there offering the same support, words of encouragement, compassion? My guess is not! It’s more likely to sound like this “you are a failure, you look awful today, how could you do that, how could be so stupid” Things you are quite happy to say to yourself but you would never dream of saying to a close friend or family member.
So I am on a quest to encourage you to practice being there for yourself, just as a friend would be, to learn how to show self compassion. Why? Because mental health research has shown us it can relieve pain and free us from anxiety, eliminate insecurities and even depression. No matter what happens on the outside, it’s about treating yourself with care and compassion on the inside.
Fact – everybody has something about themselves that they don’t like; something that causes them to feel inadequate, to feel insecure, or not “good enough.” It’s all part of life. I’ve been working on this myself. as sometimes I get really tired and exhausted in a way that I know is a result of medical treatment. I used to beat myself up a lot , not literally of course, just berating myself for needing to rest when some people can run marathons going though treatment. I would never say that to a friend or family member. I’d be there suggesting that they might go easy on themselves and perhaps listen to what their body is asking for right now. Like everything some days I find it easier than others but at least I’m getting better and don’t compare myself to what others can do. I learn how to look after my own needs and nourish myself.
So self-compassion is about acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself, as you would a best friend. Instead of expecting yourself to deal with a “get over it , stiff upper lip” mentality, it’s about stopping and acknowledging “this is really difficult right now and asking “how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?
Some people look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest this as it is far way from the usual judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings. Some people even believe they would drop their standards if they went easy on themselves! Self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? It doesn’t mean you don’t try to improve or get better but you do it to be better, healthier, happier not because you are worthless. Things do not always go the way you want them to and even the best laid plans fail. You will face disappointments, let downs, you will make mistakes, bump up against your limitations, fall short of your own ideals. This is called being human, something we all share . So please befriend yourself, pay attention to the words you say and most of all be compassionate and forgiving with yourself whenever the proverbial hits the fan. Beating yourself up when you feel like you are already on the ropes, I don’t think so. This is the time to be your most loving and forgiving of yourself – be your own best friend.