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Practicing Self-Compassion: 4 Powerful Techniques

Black woman in bath practicing self-care/self-compassion

The way you treat yourself often sets the tone for how others treat you. When you treat yourself with love and kindness, it becomes easier to set that standard for those around you. Unfortunately, many of us aren’t taught to put ourselves first and be intentional about the way we treat ourselves.

This is where learning the art of self-compassion comes into play, which you’ll learn more about below.

Defining Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is choosing to show yourself grace and kindness, even when you feel unworthy of it. Self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff believes self-compassion comprises three key elements; mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity. These are things we sometimes show other people, but forget to show ourselves. However, being mindful about how we engage with ourselves can open us up to greater levels of joy and peace.

Why Self-Compassion is Important

Self-compassion is critical because it’s one of the pillars of self-love. If you struggle with showing yourself compassion, you may also struggle to love yourself in all the ways you need to be loved. When you show yourself compassion it means you forgive yourself easily, judge yourself less, and empathize with yourself and those around you more.

Improve your well-being

When you lack self-compassion, it can negatively impact your wellbeing. In a study conducted on the nexus between self-compassion and depressive symptoms, findings suggest self-compassion can lower depressive symptoms. As you probably know, constantly overthinking and blaming yourself when something bad happens can affect your mental health. On the contrary, self-compassion can have the opposite effect, boosting your wellbeing and self image.

Interestingly, the study also found the feeling of being isolated was strongly associated with depressive symptoms.

This is why common humanity, one of the three elements of self-compassion outlined by Kristen Neff, is so important. It helps you realize self-compassion is also about realizing you aren’t alone and that others struggle too. Knowing you and the people around you have a shared experience can help you deepen the compassion you have for yourself and others.

Improve your relationship with others

When we’re extremely critical towards ourselves, we tend to extend that criticism to those around us too. For instance, if you judge yourself for being terrible at time management, you may criticize someone who’s always late in the same way. This is also known as projecting; when you take things you don’t like about yourself and displace the negative associated feelings onto someone else.

If instead of judging yourself for having poor time management skills, you show yourself compassion, showing others grace becomes easier. Being judgmental and critical can destroy relationships, whereas compassion is an ingredient for healthier relationships.

Improve Your self-worth

Think back to a time when you failed at something whether it was completely bombing an interview for your dream job or hurting someone you care about. How did you talk to yourself at that moment and what did you think about yourself? If you struggle to show yourself compassion, it’s likely that your mind was filled with harsh and critical thoughts.

However, when you have self-compassion, you’re able to take failures on the chin and not berate yourself for your mistakes. Because self-compassion boosts your self-worth in moments of despair, you’ll remember your mistakes aren’t who you are and don’t make you any less valuable!

how to be more self-compassionate

Techniques for practicing self-compassion

  • Practice radical acceptance: Accepting yourself doesn’t mean you have to pretend to love everything about yourself. It means accepting it’s a part of who you are and not trying to disassociate yourself from these things. Becoming more accepting of your flaws is a form of self-compassion that can change the way you see and treat yourself.

  • Pay attention to the messaging from your inner critic: Each time you have negative thoughts about yourself, take a mental inventory. This is a good time to start journaling if you don’t already so you can track your negative thoughts. What patterns do you notice? What are the underlying beliefs? Explore the things you find with compassion too. Next, write down an affirmation or three for every negative thought. Repeat them to yourself daily until those affirmations overpower your inner-critic. Also, accept you’ll never be perfect at this, it’s about being self-aware.

  • Practice speaking to yourself kindly: Be intentional about how you speak to yourself when you make mistakes. If you trip, don’t call yourself clumsy. Instead, comfort yourself and make sure you’re in good shape. Need other examples of ways to practice speaking to yourself kindly? Celebrate yourself for making something delicious, when you take a nap without feeling guilty, and stop in the mirror to gush over your physical features.

  • Show yourself grace when you make mistakes: This means choosing to show yourself love and compassion instead of criticism. Showing yourself grace is about choosing to forgive yourself despite your wrongdoings. It won’t come organically if you’re used to being hard on yourself, but with practice it will become easier.

Self-compassion is a game-changer and can help you along your journey to radical self-love. It all starts with remembering you’re deserving of the kindness you give others.

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