Our culture is filled with messages . We are constantly bombarded by thousands everyday. Some may be helpful, but many are not. Most reinforce a self-critical attitude that we are told is necessary for success. This attitude, along with a strong value placed on competition, can be incredibly destructive. But how would it be if things were different?
Imagine a world where we treat ourselves with the same love and kindness we show our loved ones. How might our environment be different from that which we experience today? Well, before we can change the world, we must first understand what it means to be kind to ourselves. Learning about Self-Conpassion can be a great way to start!
What is Self-Compassion?
Self-Compassion, developed by Kristin Neff, PhD, is a concept that emphasizes the importance of being kind to oneself in times of failure or self-perceived inadequacy. Rather than criticize ourselves when we make mistakes, we can have compassion for ourselves and our abilities. For example, let's assume you have come home from a stressful day at work and are feeling down due to a mistake you made on a work project. This project will be reviewed by your supervisor. How might you display compassion toward yourself to help relieve the discomfort you're experiencing? One option may be to validate your feelings and assure yourself of your abilities. Make it a point to talk to yourself in a healthy way: "I made a mistake and that's okay, This mistake does not define me. I will do better next time." Another option is to write a letter to yourself, expressing acceptance of this mistake and compassion for yourself. Regardless of the exercise you use, the important thing to remember is that you are treating yourself with kindness and compassion. Having a non-judgmental attitude toward yourself can go a long way!
Self-Compassion & Mental Wellness
So what does all of this have to do with our mental wellness? Great question! Consider the definition of Self-Compassion: how might your emotional health be affected if you do NOT show compassion toward yourself and your needs when necessary? Well, if we're not showing kindness toward ourselves, we may be treating ourselves in very harsh and unhelpful ways. Thoughts such as "I'm so stupid, I shouldn't have done that" or "I made a huge mistake, how am I going to live with myself?" are a few examples of self-criticism we may experience. These self-critical thoughts may also trigger feelings of anger, frustration or even depression, which can ultimately impact our overall functioning. When we show kindness toward ourselves, we allow ourselves space to recognize mistakes and mishaps are a natural part of the human experience. We all experience failure at some point in our lives: this does not mean we are all inadequate or incapable of succeeding. Making this connection then enables us to learn from our mistakes and apply the information we have gained.
Now that we know a little bit about Self-Compassion, we can get to changing the world!
Neff, K. (2016). Self-Compassion. http://self-compassion.org/
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