By Amy Scholten, M.P.H. – How do you treat yourself when you feel inadequate, make a mistake, or are having a difficult time? Many of us have been conditioned to criticize ourselves, but research shows that self-compassion promotes happiness and resilience while reducing anxiety, depression and stress.
Self-compassion involves acknowledging our suffering, faults, and mistakes and then responding uncritically with kindness and understanding. It’s talking to and treating our self as we would a friend. It’s seeing our problems and screw-ups as part of being human. Here are five ideas for being more self-compassionate:
Be a friend to yourself. Imagine that a friend comes to you after being rejected, failing or being in any upsetting situation you find yourself in. What would you say to them? What understanding and caring words would you share? Well, you deserve the same thoughtfulness and support as your friend.
Listen to your words. If you’re used to criticizing and judging yourself harshly, you may not even realize that you’re doing it. It can become an unconscious pattern. Listen to the words you use in speaking to yourself. Are they gentle, encouraging and loving?
Remember, that you’re not alone. Whatever you’re going through is also being experienced by many others. We’re all fumbling our way through life together. None of us is perfect.
Explore self-compassion through writing. It’s easy to get swept away in our negative storylines. As a memoir-writing coach, I often work with clients who write about their personal struggles. It’s sometimes easier for them to feel more love, acceptance andcompassion toward themselves when they write their stories in third person. By stepping outside their own story they gain a more compassionate view of the “character’s” struggles, strengths and weaknesses.
Another helpful activity is to write a love letter to yourself from the perspective of an imaginary friend who’s accepting, caring and supportive of your health and happiness. The idea is to focus on a perceived flaw you tend to judge yourself for. Write what this friend would say to you from the perspective of unlimited compassion. Include how this friend would convey the deep compassion they feel for you, especially when you’re hurting from harsh self-judgment. What would this friend write in order to reassure you that everyone has strengths and weaknesses?
Work with a supportive therapist or coach. Cultivating new patterns of thought or behavior takes effort. A safe and supportive therapist or personal coach can help you develop and learn new skills for becoming more self-compassionate. Learning to become our own best friend is a big step to living a happier and healthier life.
Amy Scholten is a writer, editor and memoir-writing coach living in Venice. Call 941-445-7144.