Did you hear? Self-esteem's out. Self-compassion is in.
Imagine your best friend has a bad day...
...like, a really humiliating moment.
What would you do? Well, you probably wouldn't kick a woman when she's down.
You'd comfort her and remind her that one crappy moment is not a reflection of her worth as a human being. You'd give her good, compassionate advice.
But what if you were the one who'd had a bad moment? What kind of advice would you give yourself?
If you're like me (and many other people), you probably have a double standard when it comes to giving yourself compassionate counsel.
But imagine if we all were as kind to ourselves as we are to our friends.
There's a term for this approach: "self-compassion." It was spearheaded by Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor in human development at the University of Texas at Austin.
Self-compassion focuses on three things: mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity.
Here are some ways to practice self-compassion:
1. In difficult moments, take a step back and treat yourself the way you would treat a friend in a similar situation.
Unfortunately, bad things happening is part of being human. The next time you're feeling inadequate, try to think about how imperfections are what make us all human. Helping a friend through a hard time can be a great bonding moment. Practicing self-compassion can be a great way to feel more connected to everyone.
2. Tell yourself a compassionate phrase or two.
These phrases can be really powerful tools in practicing mindfulness, which is all about staying in the moment, acknowledging the pain, and working through it.
Here are a few to try:
- This is a moment of suffering.
- Suffering is part of life.
- May I be kind to myself in this moment?
- May I give myself the compassion I need?
3. Don't be afraid to give yourself a hug.
Kind physical gestures like putting a hand over your heart or giving yourself a hug have an immediate effect on our bodies. The physical act can also help break us out of the cycle of negative thoughts.
Tip: For an extra niceness whammy, combine a kind gesture with your chosen compassionate phrase.
4. Try some meditation.
When it comes to self-compassion, meditation can be really helpful for retraining our brains to turn to compassionate thoughts in times of pain. There are also additional benefits to meditation, like having less anxiety, an improved ability to focus, and a better memory. Dr. Neff has some great guided meditation exercises on her site (that I may or may not have already downloaded to my phone and used today...).
Never really been into the whole "love yourself" thing? That's cool. Just try being nice to yourself.
We're often told that high self-esteem is the key to a successful life, whether it's in the realms of academics, socializing, dating, or career. Dr. Neff challenges that and says it's self-compassion — simply treating ourselves nicely — that we should all be aiming for.
That sounds reasonable enough.