What is self-compassion? It’s different from self-love, self-worth and self-esteem. So, what is self-compassion? Extending compassion to yourself when it comes to feeling like you are doing something wrong or failing at something or when you feel inadequate. Self-compassion means being kind to yourself!
My idea to write on the topic of what self-compassion stemmed from this divorced woman, who is seeking advice:
I am working on being curious about my feelings instead of judging them. I 100% do not want to be with my ex and am dating an amazing man, but when I hear about my ex’s girlfriend (who he cheated with), I feel sad and angry. I can’t figure out what is hurting and why I can’t just be happy for him/them and for me. Thoughts?
Thank you for honestly sharing that you still have moments of anger and sadness because you are not alone. So many of us have these minor setbacks even when we are in new relationships. What I believe they are there to do is shine a light on spots that we have not fully healed. In other words, to bring awareness to our feelings that perhaps we have not allowed ourselves to feel through. Instead we get mad at ourselves and begin to judge and criticize our thoughts. This is where developing a self-compassion practice is helpful.
What does practicing self-compassion entail?
Self-compassion is about making healthy changes in your life because you care about yourself and want what is best for you. It is about accepting all your faults, challenges and weaknesses without judging or criticizing yourself. It is realizing that no one is perfect and accepting your strengths and weaknesses.
Self-compassion has three core components.
First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.
Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering.
Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it.
There is no relationship more important than the one you have with yourself. Negative self-talk causes us to have a more destructive relationship with ourselves than we do with other people. We get to be understanding, kind, and gentle with ourselves as we would others. And it is okay to feel grief, pain, and hurt. Any time a negative thought pops into your mind, observe it for what it is – a negative thought – not reality. So make an intentional effort to shift to words of kindness.
This means that unlike self-esteem, the good feelings of self-compassion do not depend on being special and above average, or on meeting ideal goals. Instead, they come from caring about ourselves—fragile and imperfect yet magnificent as we are. Rather than pitting ourselves against other people in an endless comparison game, we embrace what we share with others and feel more connected and whole in the process. And the good feelings of self-compassion don’t go away when we mess up or things go wrong.
In fact, self-compassion steps in precisely where self-esteem lets us down—whenever we fail or feel inadequate. Sure, you skeptics may be saying to yourself, but what does the research show? According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the bottom line is that according to the science, self-compassion does in fact appear to offer the same advantages as high self-esteem, with no discernible downsides.
What is self-compassion compared to self-esteem?
The first thing to know is that self-compassion and self-esteem do tend to go together. f you’re self-compassionate, you’ll tend to have higher self-esteem than if you’re endlessly self-critical. And like high self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. However, self-compassion offers clear advantages over self-esteem when things go wrong, or when our egos are threatened.
According to a study that Dr. Neff conducted, self-compassionate people are better able to accept who they are regardless of the degree of praise they receive from others. Self-esteem, on the other hand, only thrives when the reviews are good and may lead to evasive and counterproductive tactics when there’s a possibility of facing unpleasant truths about oneself.
This research suggests that self-compassion provides an island of calm, a refuge from the stormy seas of endless positive and negative self-judgment, so that we can finally stop asking, “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By tapping into our inner wellsprings of kindness, acknowledging the shared nature of our imperfect human condition, we can start to feel more secure, accepted, and alive.
It does take work to break the self-criticizing habits of a lifetime, but at the end of the day, you are only being asked to relax, allow life to be as it is, and open your heart to yourself. It’s easier than you might think, and it could change your life. There is no relationship more important than the one you have with yourself. We all have an inner critic, but when that critic takes the wheel, it can cause us to have a more destructive relationship with ourselves than we do with other people.
Be understanding with yourself. Be kind, and be gentle. Treat yourself as you would treat others in your situation. Remind yourself that it is okay to feel grief, pain, and hurt. Each time a negative thought pops into your mind, observe that thought for what it is – a negative thought – not reality.
Make an intentional effort to change course and give yourself words of kindness. Such as…
May I accept myself for who I am
May I give myself the kindness and compassion I need
May I be strong and patient
May I let go and forgive myself
One of the main components of self-compassion is “common humanity,” which is the recognition that you are not alone in your suffering. Many of us feel isolated and lonely when we’re struggling. We often feel like we are the only ones who make mistakes, experience rejection, grieve for a loss, or fail at something we so badly want to achieve.
The next time you feel this way, stop, and remind yourself that life’s struggles are a part of the shared human experience. Right now, someone somewhere is going through the same thing you are, and is feeling the same way.
I am not alone in my suffering
Other people have felt this way
Everyone has struggles in their lives.
Mindfulness is another key component of self-compassion because you become aware of your emotions and thoughts, and you learn to simply observe rather than judge. In the practice of mindfulness, we become observers of the world around us. We learn to accept the moment and our situation as it is, and we learn not to suppress any feelings, thoughts, or emotions we may be experiencing in the present moment. Recognize that what you’re going through is a moment of suffering, which is simply a part of life. Don’t be afraid to express these feelings.
I am hurting right now
I am feeling stressed and anxious
I am in so much pain.
So, what is self-compassion?
Self-compassion can help you get through your divorce healing without blaming yourself or allowing anger to take over. It allows us to acknowledge where we are so we can begin to have inner peace, and begin to get comfortable being a compassionate, messy human!
Wendy Sterling is a divorce expert and a Divorce Recovery Specialist, a certified life coach, writer, author and speaker who founded of The Divorce Rehab™. Wendy helps divorced women remember who they are and what they are capable of by ending their pity party, mourning their marriage and MOVING FORWARD with dignity to see how much better life is afterwards. A graduate of UCLA and The Co-Active Training Institute, Wendy is also a divorced single mom who has transformed her own life from Corporate America employee to entrepreneur. To connect with Wendy you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website at wendysterling.net.
Like this article? Check out, “20 Things I Wish I Could Have Told My Newly Separated Self”