Self-Compassion: Why Being Kind To Yourself Matters

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day while a string of such moments has the power to change the course of your life.

Growing up you learned from those closest to you. Your parents taught you that you have to push hard and strive for excellence.

They meant well, of course.

Over time, though, you learned to parent yourself in the same way: If I don´t lose the weight, get that promotion, or ______________ (you fill in the blank), I´m worthless. I´m a loser.

So, you buckle down and starve yourself, work 16 hours a day or do whatever your barometer for worthiness might be.

The problem is…

The harder you are on yourself, the less motivated you become. 

The truth is we are far more motivated when we are kind to ourselves.

I´ve always known this on an intuitive level, yet it wasn´t until I studied to become a coach that I really understood why this is.

When we criticize ourselves, we tap into our body´s threat defense system known as the reptilian brain. It´s through this system that our bodies release adrenaline and cortisol when there is a perceived physical threat. (You may have heard it referred to the fight-or-flight response.)

The way it works is when you think a thought about yourself that you don´t like, you instinctively feel threatened and so, you attach the problem; you attack yourself.

And when it comes to self-criticism this response packs a double punch because you are not just the attacker, you are also the one being attacked.

In order to protect yourself and deal with the resulting stress, you´ll begin to feel depressed. And we both know depression is not exactly a motivating mindset.

Compassion Is In Our DNA

Here´s an interesting fact…

As mammals, it is in our DNA to stay close to our mothers when we are young in order to feel safe. Our bodies have been programmed to respond to warmth, gentle touch and soft vocalizations.

Research shows that when we are kind to ourselves, we actually lower our cortisol levels and release oxytocin which is the feel-good hormone.  And when we feel comforted and safe, we are in the peak state of mind to do our best.

Simply put, when you are self-critical you are both the bully and the victim which eventually leads to you shutting down on an emotional level. Showing yourself kindness and love, on the other hand, positions you to be your very best self.

Let´s look at some more reasons for why you should be focusing on showing yourself compassion rather than criticizing everything you do.

Self-Compassion: Why Being Kind To Yourself Matters

Self-compassion Pluses

You´ll be happier

Being kind to yourself starts with valuing yourself and treating yourself well. When you stop listening to your inner critic, get rid of the negative self-talk and focus on being your own best friend, you can´t help but feel the weight of all that negativity fall from your shoulders. That alone will leave you feeling happier and more energetic.  

Positive change is easier

There´s no reason to criticize yourself in order to get rid of bad habits. Dragging yourself down only demotivates you. Being kind to yourself makes it easier to accept that no one´s perfect, so you can start focusing on putting together a plan of action that is realistic for you. Know what you want and break your plan up into a series of mini-steps you can take every day.

You´ll be more resilient

Accept that life is full of ups and downs; take them in stride instead of being derailed by self pity. You'll bounce back faster when you realize that challenges and setbacks are as inevitable as  rainy days.

You actually feel more motivated

When you learn to value yourself, you'll feel more committed to making investments in your future. Giving yourself the freedom to make mistakes reduces the anxiety that holds you back from trying new things.

You´ll feel more connected

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer suggested that we call each other "my fellow sufferer."

When we realize that we all want to be happy but we often need to become more skillful at creating happiness, we recognize how much we have in common with everyone around us.

It makes it easier to show kindness to others

If you're gentle with yourself, you're more apt to carry that mindset into your interaction with loved ones and strangers. You'll be mindful of the challenges we all face and have a stronger desire to help others.

Creating A Self-Compassion Habit

Step 1: Identify you critical voice

See if you can identify where you learned to talk to yourself critically. Is that how your mom talks to you? Certainly she has always meant well, pushing you to be your best, but now you recognize that this isn’t serving you anymore. When you hear that voice, label it: “That’s my mom voice,” and begin to tap into what your own voice would say if you were more loving and compassionate to yourself.

Step 2: Take charge of your emotions

Accepting disappointments as part of life enables you to remain at peace. You can accept your true feelings without letting them overwhelm you.

Step 3: Be mindful

Begin to notice when you are hard on yourself. The field of cognitive behavioral therapy has a saying: Catch it, check it, change it.

Step 4: Transform your self-talk

We sometimes say things to ourselves that we would regard as too hurtful to say to anyone else.

Ask yourself: What would I say to my best friend if this were their experience rather than mine? Then try to talk to yourself with the same kind words you would use when talking to another person you cared about.

Step 5: Treat yourself 

Just like you bring a meal over to a sick friend, look for ways to be your own benefactor. Brew a cup of your favorite tea or commiserate with yourself, if you get stuck in heavy traffic.

Step 6: Learn from others

If you feel like you've been conditioned to be harsh with yourself as the only way to get results, you may need to surround yourself with reminders to stay on your new path. Observe people who seem compassionate and adapt their methods to your own situation. Read books, take a workshop and practice what you learn.

Step 7: Ask for help

It can be really hard trying to look at things from different perspectives. Talk to someone you trust about what it’s like for them when you’re self-critical. Reach out to a coach or therapist to begin unraveling the way you talk to yourself, and learn to love yourself in the same way you love others.

Here´s my challenge for you…

Make a note of the steps above and follow through on them for the next 30-days.

The more you are able to love, cherish and comfort yourself, the easier it will be for you to push past the challenges life throws your way.

If you want greater happiness and peace of mind, practice self-compassion.

If you are serious about changing your life for the better, practice self-compassion.

Because a moment of self-compassion can change your entire day while a string of such moments has the power to change the course of your life. 

About the Author Jan Marie Mueller

Jan Marie Mueller is founder of the inspirational blog ThinkBrilliantly and The Brilliance Community, a free Facebook group dedicated to empowering women to let their inner brilliance shine! Her mission is to help women everywhere shift the way they think about themselves, their world and those around them so they have the confidence to do, be and have what they want most in life!

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