We often find it so easy to be selfless and there for other people, but how often do you extend the same courtesies to yourself? We often prioritise the needs and wants of other people before our own. Humans have an inherent people pleasing tendency which we nurture and develop over the years to build our sense of community.
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Self-compassion is the process of actually turning compassion and kindness inwards and is an important part of well-being that often gets neglected. True self-compassion requires prioritising your own needs first, and not sacrificing your own wants, needs, health, social requirements, happiness and any other aspect just to please others.
I recently read a book called Self-Compassion: The Proven Power Of Being Kind To Yourself by Kristin Neff. Neff is a PhD professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Texas, and her powerful research explains how simple practices of self-compassion can affect your everyday life and completely transform it. Based on my readings, I will tell you some basic tricks and tips that can help you get started to develop a greater appreciation for yourself and reinforce it through your actions.
Neff defines self-compassion as “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism”.
Neff dives into the notion that how critical we are of ourselves directly stems from our childhood experiences and how critical our parents were of us. Any childhood traumas can manifest in the way our internal dialogue works as we get older. The key lesson from this book for me was that you can start practising self-compassion by thinking about how a friend in the same position may feel. You would likely console them in the face of despair.
Some ways to actively do this is to make a mindful and conscious effort to decrease negative self-talk. If a friend was explaining a failure or a mishap you wouldn’t kick them while they were down, you would try to find the silver-lining and show them why they are still somebody worthy of love and respect. In the same vein, you would likely attempt to re-instil a sense of confidence in them by highlighting their abilities and personal strengths. By thinking about your own strengths you can endeavour to have those very same “hyping” conversations with yourself.
We also need to make an active effort to be kind to ourselves when we make mistakes. It’s a fundamental attribute of human nature to make mistakes; we are fallible creatures. The ability to constructively acknowledge mistakes and utilise stems from your own internal dialogue in the face of a slip-up. By understanding that they happen, not beating yourself up about it and treating it as a learning experience, you’ll also significantly decrease the likelihood of slipping up again!
Prioritising yourself can also be done by making sure you get some physical movement in – this can have you feeling strong and good about yourself too whilst also releasing endorphins that’ll boost your mood.
To sign off, here’s one of my favourite quotes from Neff: “If you are continually judging and criticising yourself while trying to be kind to others, you are drawing artificial boundaries and distractions that only lead to feelings of separation and isolation”.