Loving and Supporting Yourself: Self-Compassion

We talk a lot about compassion for others in our community. Self-compassion is just as vital and it’s a great element have in your self-care toolkit.

Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading expert on self-compassion, describes it as “acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of just ignoring your pain with a ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, you stop to tell yourself ‘this is really difficult right now,’ how can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Being kind to yourself is more important than you might imagine. Many of us feel we need to be tough on ourselves in order to be motivated and make improvements in our lives, but the opposite can hold true. “Research shows that far from encouraging self-indulgence, self-compassion helps us to see ourselves clearly and make needed changes because we care about ourselves and want to reach our full potential.”

Studies show that self-compassion and other mindful practices can help us reduce stress and foster a better sense of well-being.

Here’s a video of Dr. Neff sharing the science of self-compassion.

So, it’s time to take better care for yourself, understand yourself, and be kind to yourself. Here’s how to practice self-compassion:

Notice and improve your self-talk.

The voice of self-judgement in our head can cause us a lot of unnecessary stress. Let’s replace the self-critic with a supportive, compassionate voice. Catch yourself when you notice negative self-talk and pivot to talking yourself like you would to a good friend who’s struggling. If it helps keep you on track, jot down in a journal the harsh self-talk in one column and a self-compassionate reframe of what you can say to yourself in the second column.

Practice self-compassion meditation.

Here are guided self-compassion audio clips and exercises from Dr. Kristin Neff; a self-compassion for caregivers meditation; and this guided self-compassion video.

Practice loving-kindness meditation.

During a loving-kindness meditation, you send wishes of goodwill to yourself and others.

Here’s a guided loving-kindness meditation offered by our team member Britt Turpack during a self-care session.

Also check out this 10-minute guided loving-kindness meditation by leading mindfulness expert Sharon Salzberg, who also offers ways you can practice it anywhere (in your car, while waiting to pay for groceries….); and this audio practice from Diana Winston, the director of UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC).

Start the day with kindness for yourself.

First thing when you wake up, greet yourself with, “Good morning, I love you.” Sounds too corny for you? Dr. Shauna Shapiro, the clinical psychologist and researcher on mindfulness who wrote a book on the subject, thought so, too. But it works. Here’s a video from Dr. Shapiro on the practice.