“Always be kind to others and never expect anything in return”, a popular saying most of us heard in our growing years. Being kind has always been a virtue one possesses to be considered a compassionate and good natured person. Culturally, we have been indoctrinated to look away from ourselves and be there for others. Being there for ourselves or being kind is interpreted as being selfish, weak, complacent, indulging in self pity, or even narcissistic. We are our own worst critics but express compassion towards a loved one in a difficult situation, stand by them with a non judgemental attitude and express feelings of concern effortlessly.
- Why is it so difficult to extend the same kindness to our self that we gladly offer to others?
- Why do we worry that we may be labelled selfish being there for ourselves?
- Why do we hesitate to say caring words to our self as easily as we do for others?
Self compassion, is being open minded and understanding one’s own suffering, being considerate and kind towards one’s own flaws and embracing oneself without any biases. Being kind to oneself is being less self critical bringing the focus onto one’s own difficult feelings, addressing them rather rejecting, in order to approach them rationally and help manage them better.
Why is it important to be compassionate towards ourselves ?
Self-compassion appears to be an important source of strength and resilience when faced with life stressors and has been consistently linked with positive emotional wellbeing.
A setback or a conflict situation usually makes the person defensive or indulge in self pity and end up either blaming others or reprimanding themselves. These unhelpful ways of responding could either make the person avoid responsibility of their own actions in a stressful situation or make wrong judgement of one’s own potential to manage well. Both of them eventually affect the self worth and personal growth of the person. Firstly, being compassionate to you is essential to continue being there for others.
Kristin Neff, the pioneer in Self Compassion research defines it as “being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, non-judgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience”.
How do we become compassionate towards ourselves?
Recall a recent time when a loved one has come to you going through a difficult situation. Recall your tone of voice attending to them and the words you used to make them feel better. Similarly, remember a time when you were struggling with something in your life and recall how you attended to what you were experiencing and bring in awareness of what you said to yourself especially the tone of your voice.
- Do you notice a difference in how you attended to someone you care and the manner in which you stood by for yourself?
- Do you feel that you could easily be there for others you care and were being a lot more critical with yourself?
“Unlike Self criticism, which asks if you’re good enough, Self-Compassion asks what’s good for you.”
Treating ourselves with warmth, care and kindness like we do for others especially when we are going through a difficult time is what encompasses “Self Compassion”. Initially, it will seem awkward and unnatural being kind and understanding towards one’s own pain and suffering with complete awareness of the overwhelming emotions. Gradually over a period of time it will tame down the negative critic within us who usually tends to harshly judge and criticise. It will bring in an increased awareness towards one’s own experiences and emotions with a realisation that others around you have similar experiences and prevent us from getting frustrated and disappointed in the event of failure and enhancing the sense of community with others too.
“Practise self compassion: to increase motivation, to become optimistic, to attain greater happiness and to have more life satisfaction”.
AUTHOR: Smitha, Lead Counsellor
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