Self-compassion: being a better friend to yourself

Self-esteem, self- awareness, confidence, and empathy are some of the words society has been familiar with for decades. These words and others are crucial when talking about personal development and how to be better to others. We get taught that we should work on and in ourselves to become better people to us and those around us. However, we rarely talk about extending the same attributes we’re to share with others to ourselves.

Compassion extended inwards

Compassion is a mix of sympathy and empathy. In one, you feel for the difficulty in which a person is experiencing walking in their shoes and the other you do walk in them. In this space, humans extend kindness, patience, understanding, pity, sensitivity, and love toward the other but rarely extend the same inward. Think of all the mistakes you’ve made: missing a typo in an important email, snapping at a friend when they didn’t meet your expectations, getting an eavestrough installation request wrong after spending hours with your husband deciding; the list is endless.

When is the last time you extended patience and kindness to yourself after making a mistake? Did you berate yourself or did you correct yourself with the kindness that you would a beloved friend?

Self-compassion for physical and mental health

From a young age, we’re taught to be harsh on ourselves. It is usually either through criticism from others that we turned inward or through hearing how those around us talked about themselves. These thoughts are not without effects on our physical and mental health. When we comfort a friend, we visibly notice their breathing slow down, they relax, and in no time a smile returns to their face. In a case where it’s not tended to, their complaining of headaches, insomnia, fatigue, stress, digestion issues among other symptoms is deemed as an effect of their bashing themselves. The very same thing happens to us.

When we adopt self-compassion in our lives, immediately our wild heart rates slow down, and our immune systems strengthened. Scientific research by neurologists and others in the field also shows our ability to see life in a rosier hue increases as the areas in our brains responsible for pleasure become increasingly active. Overall, self-compassion is the road to improved mental health as you learn to soothe yourself into wellness.

The practice

One can go about being self-compassionate in their lives. Even what feels like a perfect day can have you feeling you made mistakes. In whatever day you’re having, actively catch yourself in self-negating thoughts. Once you have, step outside yourself and talk to yourself as a loving friend would. Do it right now, and notice the difference you’ll feel immediately.

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