Offering Ourselves Compassion

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Written by Jess Thomas

When a friend comes to us hurting or upset, it’s usually easy to offer them care and comfort. In fact, it can be much easier to provide that support to others than it is to offer that same warmth to ourselves. Yet cultivating self-compassion can be beneficial, especially after the difficult year and a half we’ve all experienced. 

There are three components to self-compassion:

  1. Self-kindness: Everyone makes mistakes, says unkind things, or acts in ways they may come to regret. It’s inevitable that we’ll suffer and we’ll fail. What’s not inevitable is how we react in those moments. We may have learned to ignore the pain or to criticize ourselves, but those reactions can increase our suffering. An equation that helps to illustrate this is pain x resistance = suffering. By treating ourselves kindly, we can take resistance out of the equation and reduce our suffering. Although it may be difficult to treat ourselves with kindness, especially if we’re used to criticizing ourselves, with practice it will become easier. 
  2. Common humanity: When we mess up or negative emotions arise, it’s easy to think that we’re alone. We may think thoughts such as “I’m the only one making these mistakes” or “I’m the only one who feels like this.” However, we’re all human, and being human means that we’re imperfect. In moments of suffering, it can help to remember that we’re not alone–we’re human.
  3. Mindfulness: When we’re suffering, it can narrow our perspectives. Without mindfulness, we can find ourselves overwhelmed by negative feelings. Observing our negative feelings and suffering without judgment can aid in keeping ourselves balanced. We’ve been through hard times before and survived. We can survive hard things again. Mindfulness can help us keep everything in perspective.

Self-compassion can also help move us from a fixed mindset into a growth mindset. A fixed mindset can keep us stuck. A fixed mindset can sound like this: “I’m bad at math” or “I’m an unsuccessful student.” These statements don’t give us a chance to change or improve. It’s a fixed state. A growth mindset can sound like this: “I’m still learning how to work through geometry problems” or “I’m building skills to experience academic success.” By embracing self-compassion, we understand that the learning process is a process and there will be failures along the way. That doesn’t mean we give up! Self-compassion can help us pick ourselves up and try again.

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