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Self-Compassion

Treating ourselves with compassion can have a big impact on the quality of our lives, our relationships, and our wellbeing. But sometimes it can be challenging to be kind to ourselves, and thoughts like “you’re a failure” or “no one likes you” may creep in. Practicing self-compassion is one way to learn to be kinder to ourselves and grow our mental resilience. Here’s a general roadmap on how to grow your self-compassion:

Step 1: Without judgement notice what is happening

When you’re hit hard with feelings of shame, embarrassment, sadness, or any other difficult emotion that sets off your negative self-talk, take a breath and notice what is happening in the moment.

  • Notice what is happening in your body
    • Scan your body and like a scientist observing an experiment, make neutral (non-judgmental) statements about what is happening in your body:
      • “I notice my chest feels tight.”
      • “My stomach feels queasy.”
      • “My palms are sweaty.”
      • “There are tears running down my face.”
  • Notice what is happening in your mind
    • Notice what your mind is telling you. You might even label your thoughts if that is helpful:
      • “I notice that I’m having the thought that I’m a failure.”
      • “My mind is telling me a lot of negative thoughts about myself.”
  • Notice what emotions are you feeling
    • Naming our emotions, without judging ourselves for having them, can help us identify how we feel and slow down a difficult moment:
      • “I feel angry”
      • “I’m confused by what just happened.”

Step 2: Accept your humanness

When we make a mistake, we often feel like we are the only person in the world who would do such a thing. In reality, our struggles aren’t symptoms of something being wrong with us; they are symptoms of being a human – and being a human can is often hard, messy, and challenging. This is true for everyone.

In those moments of struggle think to yourself:

  • “If anyone had gone through what I had just gone through, they would also be feeling…”
  • “Who wouldn’t feel [anxious, embarrassed, angry, etc.] after that happened?”

Step 3: Talk to yourself like a good friend

When we are struggling, our minds will angrily call us names, put us down, or shame us. We may often say cruel things to ourselves that we would never say to a good friend. To grow self-compassion and build mental resilience, try talking to yourself like you would a friend. Doing this can help you shift your perspective and help you remember that you are a good person no matter what mistakes you make.

Self-compassion takes practice

For many of us, self-compassion doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill that we need to practice over and over again to get better at it. As you get better at your self-compassion practice, you will notice that during tough times you will start to replace the negative self-talk with positive self-talk, by saying things to yourself like “you got this,” “you are smart,” and “you are strong.”

Self-compassion is the foundation for compassion towards others

Many of us value giving to others and contributing to our communities. However, without taking care of ourselves first, we may feel drained. Practicing self-compassion and growing our mental resilience can have a big impact on the quality of our lives, our relationships with others, and with how much energy we have to give others.

Additional Resources:

The mind is like a muscle. The more we work it out, the easier it gets to become more self-compassionate.

  1. Try working out your self-compassion with these six different self-compassion exercises: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises
  2. Meditate on your self-compassion by following the RAIN exercise.
  3. Negative self-talk can be hard to ignore, and sometimes it can lead to depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide. Learn how to take care of yourself or to help others, by reaching out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/native-americans/

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