I want to ask you a question: Would you talk to a friend the same you talk to yourself? The answer most folks give to this question is almost always “no,” so I’d like to go a step further and ask if you would talk to your worst enemy the same way they talk to yourself. If as you’re reading these two questions, you’re thinking that maybe you could find a way to be a little kinder to yourself, then I’d like to introduce you to the concept of self-compassion.
Self-compassion means offering understanding and kindness to ourselves when we fail, make a mistake, or notice something we dislike about ourselves, rather than criticizing or judging ourselves. Self-compassion is characterized by three main elements, listed below.
- Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgement: This involves recognizing that we are humans, and that failing or being imperfect is inevitable. Often, we make situations that are already difficult worse by focusing on what we “should” have done rather than accepting what happened and moving on.
- Common Humanity vs. Isolation: When we make a mistake, we typically feel isolated and alone, thinking we are the only person who could have messed up like this. If we open up to someone else about our experience, it is easier to see that all humans make mistakes and accept our own shortcomings.
- Mindfulness vs. Over-Identification: This involves taking a balanced approach to our emotions, so the negative ones are neither suppressed nor exaggerated. Sometimes we must sit with our uncomfortable feelings, so they don’t continue to grow. At the same time, we want to make sure we don’t over-identify with our feelings so that we become too caught up in them.
If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, I’d encourage you to check out Dr. Kristin Neff’s website. The website is loaded with books, workshops, videos, and other resources to help you improve your self-compassion.