Think about the way you treat a close friend — whether it’s on a day-to-day basis or in times of trouble. Chances are, you speak to them in a gentle manner and are sympathetic toward their struggles. Now think about your internal dialogue, whether it’s daily thought patterns about yourself, or when you feel you’ve failed at something. Are you giving yourself the same kindness and understanding that you’d offer a friend? Most likely not. But imagine if you were. What would happen if you approached your own thoughts and feelings in the same manner that you would approach a friend’s?
According to self-compassion researcher Kristen Neff, self-compassion is made up of three components: being kind to ourselves as we make mistakes (self-kindness), recognizing that suffering is part of the human experience and applies to everyone (common humanity), and observing our emotions and thoughts in a manner that’s non-judgmental (mindfulness).
Soften Your Tone: When you’re having a hard time, try using the kind of tone of voice that you would use to speak to a loved one who is hurting. Say soothing words to yourself. Things like, “It’s ok, everyone makes mistakes sometimes. You’re human”, “Take a deep breath, you’re okay”, “Oh this is tough. I’m going to be kind to myself during this”.
Focus on You Once A day: What are the things that nourish you in your life? Nourishing things are the things that recharge the batteries, relax and rejuvenate you. The things that light you up, bring you joy and feed the soul. Some examples of nourishing things are yoga, surfing, going for a walk, having a cup of tea in the sun, gardening, painting or other hobbies, spending time with a pet or loved one, meditation, reading a book, or simply taking a break to cloud watch or take a nap.
Check in with yourself: When you find yourself in a particularly bad bout of self-doubt or irritation, pause. Do a scan of your body starting with the top of your head, then ears, then neck, etc. Go section by section checking in with how each part feels and moves with the rhythm of your breath. Or opt for a quick 1-min guided meditation. Seriously, one minute is all you need for a quick reset before spiraling.
These little moments will help you come to the realization that you’re human, you make mistakes and that’s okay. Somehow we have a hard time accepting that about ourselves even though it seems stupidly obvious about our friends. Through cultivating this kind of mindful self-compassion we can find connection, softness and soothing when we’re hurting. And hopefully that brings kindness to ourselves when we need it the most.
Have you found any self-compassion techniques that work for you? I’d love to hear!