5 Steps Towards Practicing More Self-Compassion

Do you frequently ruminate over mistakes? Does your shame keep you guarded and embarrassed? Does it seem like everyone else has a better or easier life than you?

If you resonate with those struggles, you’re certainly not alone. Many of us are our own worst enemies, and we live in a society that conditions us to question, doubt, and even devalue ourselves. Self-compassion is a courageous way to stand up against your inner critic and reclaim your happiness. Here are some steps you can try.

Acknowledge Your Unconditional Worth

Although this step sounds simplistic, it’s the one most people struggle with. Many people base their worth using conditional terms. I’ll be lovable when I’m thinner. I’m a loser because I’m not in a relationship. I’m a failure because I didn’t get that job.

These harsh statements all have something in common: they assume you need to do or have something to be “good enough.” But what if you could be “good enough” regardless of your circumstances? What if you were just naturally “good enough” because you are who you are? What if you were inherently and automatically allowed to be alive and take up space?

When you unconditionally believe you have worth, you accept that you are a flawed person who sometimes makes mistakes. With that, you also accept that you have amazing qualities and unique traits. But most importantly, you can give yourself grace and compassion, even when you experience tough times.

Recognize Everyone Struggles

Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer researcher in self-compassion, acknowledges that self-compassion entails recognizing that pain is an innate part of being human. In other words, you’re not alone in your feelings (even when you think you are). Everyone can relate to feelings of guilt, fear, anger, or sadness. We all have experienced some degree of loss or rejection.

She argues that assuming you’re isolated in your experience only perpetuates more suffering.  Likewise, engaging in self-pity tends to exacerbate shame and disconnect.

Instead, strive to recognize that all humans are vulnerable and imperfect. Try to avoid becoming absorbed by thoughts of incompetence or inferiority. If you are stuck in a state of self-loathing, you dismiss the universal nature of humanity. And if you fall into a spiral of believing that things are supposed to “go well,” you might become overly reactive when life doesn’t go according to your plan.

Speak to Yourself Like a Friend

How do you react to your friends when they make a mistake or share that they’re struggling? Chances are, you’d never dream of talking to them the way you talk to yourself.

Consider applying some of that logic the next time you find yourself in a self-loathing spiral. Talk back to your inner critic by being mindful of your tendency to assume the worst about yourself. Strive to care for yourself with tenderness and love. If that feels too awkward or forced right now, make it a goal to take baby steps to eventually get there.

Be Objective When You Make Mistakes

Sometimes, it’s helpful to practice taking a more neutral, objective approach when reflecting on yourself. For example, let’s say you missed a deadline at work. Maybe your ordinary mental script sounds like this: I’m so stupid and irresponsible! I can’t believe I overlooked this project. I’m going to get fired, and I deserve to get fired. I’m so mad at myself! 

If speaking to yourself like a friend feels inauthentic, consider sticking with the facts. You can even pretend you are a journalist covering a story.

For example, you might say, I missed that deadline. The project was due this afternoon, and I’m halfway done. I can have it finished by Monday. I am going to email my boss right now, explain my situation, and ask for more time. 

While this practice doesn’t take away your feelings, it can help put them into greater context.

Aim to Let Go of Outside Validation

When we depend on others to make us feel good about ourselves, we stay contingent on approval for happiness and love.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel accepted. But when you can’t affirm yourself, you’re on a slippery slope of denying your authentic self, people-pleasing, or engaging in activities you don’t like to feel acknowledged.

Get in the habit of complimenting yourself. Take time to notice your strengths. Focus on building a meaningful relationship with yourself through more self-care and introspection. You will find that loving yourself fully also allows you to love others more wholeheartedly.

How Therapy Can Help Promote More Self-Compassion

Self-compassion is lifelong work. You don’t just practice a few interventions and suddenly love yourself! However, the more you practice these skills, the easier they become.

If you’ve always struggled with issues related to your self-esteem or self-worth, thinking differently may seem downright impossible. Trauma and mental illness can also complicate the relationship you share with yourself.

Therapy allows you to better understand your values, needs, and personal experiences. You deserve a healing space where you can feel unconditionally supported. I am here to provide you with that space. Contact me today to get started.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759

(512) 988-3363

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