I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in an environment where we are very loving and kind towards others. My family will quickly help someone in need without hesitation; whether it is providing a hug, a kind gesture or just being available to listen. I learned many aspects of compassion growing up in this environment, however self-compassion was not one of them. While no one encouraged me to be unkind to myself, statements by those around me were filled with self-judgment. I remember hearing friends and family talk about how they have to lose weight and what they shouldn’t be eating. I heard about who was having a bad hair day or how much someone needed to exercise. These statements were never directed towards each other since that would be unkind, but it was common for people to talk about themselves that way. I joined in, trying to perfect the way I looked specifically when it came to weight; a failed attempt to avoid the suffering I saw around me.
Almost all of us have memories like this that have caused us to have some level of insecurity about something in our lives or personality. It may be how we look, what we do for a living, how intelligent we are or the choices that we make. As children, we don’t inherently have this self-consciousness, but it is put on us one layer at a time through experiences. We become our own worst critics. Each mistake becomes a ghost that haunts us, full of shame and reminding us of how easy it is to fail or be unlovable. These are the things that keep us living a life that makes us feel trapped and unfulfilled.
I have found that this pain is quickly put to a stop with practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion is recognizing the humanity within yourself and being grateful for who you are, especially the “flaws” that make you unique. It is about being gentle with yourself and not judging yourself for every mistake. Simple steps can allow us to treat ourselves a little more like we treat others, speaking kind words and forgiving easily for the little stuff.
Here are just some of the ways you can start to integrate self-compassion into your life:
- Forgive yourself – Generally we don’t think twice about forgiving others for small mistakes, but any we make are held onto causing unnecessary pain. Start with the small things (they are easier) and really look at the situation entirely. Ask yourself if you would hold that against someone else. Be very honest about the impact and the outcome of the mistake and determine if it is really that important. Then, remind yourself that you are human and these things happen, so it is time to let it go. It can be uncomfortable to bring up the mistakes you have made, but you will be able to slowly release all of these ghosts that are haunting you.
- Change your motivation – As a society, we have turned our self-hatred into motivation to change. This can easily be seen in advertisements and billboards. While this may help us get initial results, it never provides lasting happiness whether we are successful with the change or not. If your change is born out of the fact that you love yourself, it will be easier and sustainable. Strive to change things because you love yourself, not because you hate yourself. This simple shift in perception will make the changes exciting and give you more patience. You will start eating better because you truly want to take care of this person you love. You will want to stop procrastinating because you don’t want to put that stress on yourself. Coming from a place of compassion, any self-sabotage gets a light put on it and one by one those behaviors fade away.
- Don’t gossip or judge – The more you engage in conversation that is about what people are doing wrong or what isn’t good enough about them, the more you will build your own insecurities. It is natural when we hear people talk about others for us to wonder what they are thinking about us. If others around you are talking poorly about others, simply don’t participate or steer the conversation in another direction. If these statements are coming from you, recognize that judgment of others is usually an indication of what you don’t like about yourself. Take time to reflect on the situation. You will not only grow compassion for others, but you will see where you need some healing or forgiving as well.
- Ignore compliments – Putting too much weight on what others think about us, the good or the bad, will feed your insecurities. Self-compassion is about loving yourself regardless of what others think about you. This doesn’t mean you should respond rudely or ignore those being nice to you. It is about ensuring you are not doing things for recognition or acknowledgement. Give yourself the compliment, tell yourself how amazing you are and what a great job you did. These aren’t things that need to come from external sources to be valid.
- Give yourself some love – Part of living self-compassion is integrating some good self-care routines. This starts with speaking kindly towards yourself, even if it is in your own head. Don’t allow yourself to think negative things about yourself, quickly countering any that come up with a positive statement such as “I am perfect as I am.” Next, look at the actions you take to show yourself love. Every time we put the care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list, we are convincing ourselves that we aren’t as important as those around us. Truly being kind to ourselves means eating well, taking care of our bodies and having some solid relaxation routines. Any little change that calls to you will bring a big shift into your life.