“As opposed to self-esteem, a trait that current studies show sabotages more than strengthens, self compassion is a healthier quality without the risks of an inflated ego and narcissism.” ~ Michelle Maiellaro
You’re a failure.
It’s all your fault.
Any of those self-criticisms sound familiar?
They may be too familiar because who hasn’t fallen victim to this? I know I have—I even blamed myself for getting cancer.
So when self deprecation spirals out of control into daily flagellation, you know it’s time for a change. But how?
Self compassion means showing kindness to yourself when you feel inadequate, incapable, or imperfect. It’s your answer to eliminating criticism, guilt trips, and stress while increasing happiness, satisfaction, resilience, and serenity.
As opposed to self-esteem, a trait that current studies show sabotages more than strengthens, self compassion is a healthier quality without the risks of an inflated ego and narcissism.
How To Practice Self Compassion
And, to get you on a self compassion path, here are 5 simple ways to practice some much-needed loving kindness.
1. Be Your Best Friend.
Showing yourself some affection may seem hard, but it’s not. To change your inner narrative, talk to yourself as if you were your best friend.
If your best friend told you she was a failure, you wouldn’t agree with her, would you?
Instead, you would contradict her, encourage her, and dispel her fears, even listing her strengths and qualities. Your words would motivate her and shake her out of a mental slump.
So, grab a notebook and list your common self-criticisms. Next to each disparaging phrase, write the words you would say to a friend. You could even craft your response as a letter, reading it daily until your self-criticism withers away.
This method is about cultivating empathy. Empathizing with yourself and realizing you are not alone in your suffering paves an easier road to self compassion.
Okay, you might have screwed up or failed. Maybe you started over yet failed again.
Get over it because you’re just wasting time and energy berating yourself. And your attachment to perfection taxes your mental health, making you more susceptible to err and fail again.
Only when you understand that perfection isn’t possible can you embrace the missteps. Failure is an invaluable learning experience that hones your resiliency to future upsets.
So instead of wallowing in your defeats, be grateful for them, learn from them, know you are stronger for them, and move on.
And to move forward, it’s important to release the guilt and shame you’ve accumulated each day.
Therefore, your new mantra is, “Today, I was enough.” Say those exact words to yourself every night before you go to bed for 3 consecutive weeks to leave self-criticism behind.
Picture yourself as a child, between 4 and 6 years old, then try using your self-criticism on her.
You won’t be able to.
Instead, shower her with kindness. Tell her how wonderful, smart and unique she is. Tell her you love her. Say the words your mind refuses to say and release them on the innocence of your youth. Keep going until you’ve shared at least 10 of the qualities you appreciate.
Then, imagine yourself hugging your inner child, asking forgiveness for all the abuse you’ve unloaded on her until now.
On my first attempt at this, I burst into tears. After that outburst, self compassion became easier, even natural. Now, I often picture my younger self and remember that my acts of self kindness honor her today.
Loving your inner child is where you smash those chains of self-contempt that you’ve built over the years and accept the innate love you have for life. Your life.
4. Be Curious.
Do you really believe the things you’re telling yourself?
The next time you hear that inner critic, stop and challenge it. When your mind says, “you’re dumb,” ask if that’s the truth.
Sometimes we indulge in negative self-talk for sympathy, a moment of self-pity to deal with the unexpected or the screw-ups. Or we need to blame someone, so why not ourselves? This is why you tell yourself you’re not smart, pretty, or successful enough.
But do those qualities matter?
What matters is who you are.
What matters is the meaning you bring to others and to yourself. So instead criticizing yourself, question your thoughts, and remember the times you were successful.
5. Surprise Yourself
Grab some paper and colored pens, then cut the paper into strips. On each strip write a positive phrase or mantra such as:
I am enough
I am wise
I am able
I am strong
I love my life
I love my (physical characteristic)
I love my (quality)
Now, you can either do one of 2 things.
The first is to get a large mason jar, fold up the strips and toss them inside. Each time you drown in self-criticism, grab the jar, pull out a strip, read and repeat it aloud 10 times.
The second method entails hiding these strips, putting each one in a place where you will eventually find it. Like a pocket, wallet, or drawer. Each discovery will be your mantra to repeat throughout the day. When using this method, I enjoyed the surprising yet gentle nudge in the right direction.
Over time, these phrases will replace your inner critic. Consider them your personal yet random acts of kindness to generate self compassion.
Know that you are worthy of your own kindness. And remember that you are enough, you are intelligent, and you are perfect the way you are. Believe in your capabilities and allow self compassion to forge a serene, loving, and happy life because you deserve it.