February 13, 2015
We all know the golden rule: reciprocity. But what if we view others far more kindly than we view ourselves? Self-compassion — treating ourselves to the same compassion we hold for others — is one way to counter excessive self-criticism born from fragile self-esteem or perfectionist tendencies. Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading self-compassion researcher, offers a test to help you examine your self-compassion here.
How do you score? In what ways are you most self-compassionate, and where do you have room to be kinder to yourself? How might you practice treating yourself more fairly?
If you need a little help doing unto yourself as you would ‘do unto others,’ here are four ways to increase your self-compassion:
1. Treat yourself like you would a friend.
Imagine sitting next to yourself, striking up a heart-to-heart conversation and simply listening to your concerns. After listening to and accepting your thoughts and worries, try responding to them like you would for a loved one — what feedback would you give someone you cared about deeply? How does it differ from what you have told yourself in the past? Another way to try this: write yourself a letter about a problem in your life. Re-read it carefully, then write a compassionate response.
2. “Treat yo' self,” period.
Ask yourself, if a friend was feeling the way you do now, would you offer to take them to the beach, to the movies or an improv comedy show? Would you lend them a favorite book, offer them a cup of tea, bake them snickerdoodles or sticky buns? You deserve these affectionate gestures as well! They don’t have to come from someone else — why wait for someone else to treat you the way you would like to be treated, when you can jump-start that kindness yourself? If you are feeling lonely, you can invite a friend to join you. Not sure you have a companion who will help you vent? Treating yourself to a chat with a listener is another way to exercise self-compassion.
3. Look for case studies.
Feeling alone, embarrassed, or stuck? You are not alone! If you research your situation, you can read about, and even engage with, others who have faced similar scenarios and really ‘get it.’ Looking for a less involved way to work through your feelings and reflect on your situation? You could find a song or album that speaks to your feelings, take a relaxation break to listen to it, and consider sharing it with a friend or loved one to help them understand how you feel. See how many people you can relate to. You might be surprised by how much you have in common.
4. Don’t measure yourself against others.
It would not be kind to tell someone else, “She’s prettier than you,” “You’re weaker than him because he got over the breakup faster than you,” or, “If you’re smarter than her, you’ll win this debate.” Isn’t it equally unkind to send yourself these unnecessarily competitive messages? With respect and acceptance for yourself — where you’ve come from, where you are today, and where you’d like to go tomorrow — can you think of kinder, more realistic and productive messages to tell yourself?
By honoring yourself with the same understanding, generosity, fellowship and respect you would offer a friend — truly being your own best friend — you can break self-defeating cycles of negative thinking that hold you back day-to-day. Improving your self-compassion can give you the emotional support you need to lead a more courageous and fulfilling life.
Contribute to our conversation on self-compassion in the forum!
Written by 7 Cups Listener & Mentor: OliviaButler