8 Simple Ways to Practice Self-Compassion
When was the last time you got frustrated with yourself? Do you often blame yourself and beat yourself up? Have you ever been harsh with someone, only to be harder on yourself later on? Here are 8 ways to practice self-compassion.
We tend to be harder on ourselves than we even realize. But what if there was another way? Self-compassion practice involves forgiving oneself, accepting one's perceived flaws, and showing oneself kindness. The process can be much harder than it sounds, but we can make it a habit with the proper techniques.
You might benefit from these techniques if you often judge and criticize yourself. Below are my top tips and exercises for practicing self-compassion.
1. Use Mirrors to Practice Self-Compassion
For years, experts have suggested positive affirmations and promoted self-acceptance in numerous psychology books, websites, and self-help resources. But their effectiveness has not been empirically tested—until recently.
Researchers found that compassion for our distress helps us refocus and activate self-regulation systems that promote feelings of safety instead of pain and threat. We are innately motivated to care and attach to others. You can stimulate this motivation through these self-soothing activities.
Create a list of comforting, soothing, compassionate phrases or sentences you'd say to a friend when they are upset or down or those that you'd like to hear when you are upset. When you need a boost of self-compassion, keep them handy and repeat them to yourself in the mirror.
A few compassion phrases are listed below:
- You need to love and care for the parts of yourself you don't like.
- Strength is something you've always had, and now you'll find it again.
- You can always count on me to help you in whatever way I can.
- Think about all the good things you've done and will do.
Be aware of the general emotional tone your reflection evokes in you before you begin your compassionate self-talk.
2. Accept Your Flaws
Accepting something does not mean you have to like it. All of us have things about ourselves we don't like, but if you get those things you can't change, you will become more satisfied with yourself.
The most challenging part of my sobriety was that I did not enjoy partying and barhopping as much as I had claimed. It was difficult to acknowledge and accept that these things weren't “me” (primarily since my caregivers taught me that introversion was a negative characteristic).
Although I sometimes struggle with being introverted, the most compassionate thing I've done for myself has been accepting myself and my true nature. By doing so, I have been able to focus on my creativity, my writing, and my relationships.
3. Act Like a Compassionate Friend
One easy way to practice self-compassion, is to put yourself in the position of a compassionate friend. Imagine that a good friend is going through the difficulties that you are going through. What would they say to you? How would they comfort you?
Assume that your inner voice is always by your side:
- When times are tough, what do they say?
- Would they be able to comfort you in any way?
- If they spoke negatively, how would they react?
You can channel your compassionate friend's warmth and support the next time you speak negatively. It might even be helpful if you imagine a celebrity role model.
4. Forgive Yourself For Your Mistakes
Forgiveness is essential to learning to practice self-compassion for yourself. Sometimes we make mistakes, but we don't always forgive ourselves for them.
Depending on the error, forgiving yourself may be difficult. Remember that you cannot go back (no matter how hard you try), so forgiveness and moving forward are the best course of action.
It takes time to learn to apologize for your inappropriate behaviors instead of shrugging them off or excusing them. Try focusing on your behavior being wrong, not that YOU were wrong.
5. Common Humanity
Positive psychology literature has long emphasized connecting to self-compassion and a connection to something bigger than ourselves. The desire to connect is part of human nature. Rather than seeing ourselves as isolated or separate from others, we should perceive our individual experiences as embedded in the broader human experience. This is an essential component of practicing self-compassion.
When we are kinder to ourselves for our limitations, we show self-compassion — we aren't perfect. Still, we offer self-compassion when we accept and forgive ourselves for our flaws. Being imperfect or feeling hurt is not unique to us; rather than withdrawing or isolating ourselves, we sometimes recognize that other people feel the same way.
The following behaviors can help you find forgiveness for yourself:
- Recognizing that your shortcomings are a natural part of being human
- Understanding that difficulties are a part of life that everyone experiences
- Whenever you feel inadequate, remind yourself that others also feel the same way.
6. Showing Generosity to Others
The theory of reciprocity identifies three types: givers, takers, and matches. Generosity is a great way to employ compassion, and givers are the most generous. Givers can be the most and the least successful since they may neglect their own needs in a pattern of selfless giving.
The act of generosity cannot be selfless if it works for the benefit of your well-being. When being generous, make sure you know your needs before moving forward. In addition, choose the recipient of your generosity based on your energy level and available resources.
Be generous and have fun. Give back to yourself, and see the difference you make. Happiness comes from doing good for others, but only if it does not reduce our well-being.
7. Cultivating Self Awareness
Self-awareness and self-talk are other techniques. Awareness of our internal narratives is a better starting point than beating yourself up.
Try ‘Releasing Statements' if you have never been a fan of positive affirmations. You may feel that they aren't coming naturally to you or that they don't reach your Inner Critic. If that's the case, you might consider what is colloquially known as a ‘releasing statement.
These mini-exercises in self-forgiveness are closely related to detached non-judgment. Whenever you feel like you're terrible for getting upset, turn a negative thought around and ‘release' yourself from it (e.g., “Feeling upset is okay for me.”) Through self-awareness, you are learning to ways to practice self-compassion.
8. Practice Mindfulness
It would help if you took moments to be mindful. As well to yoga and deep breathing, Mindfulness is a necessary component of self-compassion. I also recommended practicing self-compassion breaks and guided nurturing meditations, such as body scans.
Treat yourself as you would others and use the doubt to your advantage by pretending you will behave differently on flights.
Which of these methods is the easiest for you to practice self-compassion? Which are the hardest?