Anyone can learn to be more compassionate towards themselves, here are 6 tips for how to practice self-compassion.
I am the most hurtful towards myself. For as long as I can remember, I have sought out reasons why I was to blame for negative outcomes. I heard critical voices with more clarity than supportive ones. I used alcohol for many reasons, including to punish myself for my imagined and real faults. I didn’t seek help in times of dire need because I didn’t think I deserved help. I was so harmful to myself that I didn’t know a little self-compassion could have slowed down that rollercoaster and even given me a reprieve from the extreme ups and downs of my emotions.
Self-compassion is one of the most important life skills. Unfortunately, many of us don’t even know what it means to have compassion towards ourselves. One person may think of it as self-care while another may be annoyed by what they imagine to be indulgent selfishness. Self-compassion is neither of those things. Rather, to be compassionate towards oneself is being kind to yourself with the same tenderness and understanding you would bestow on a loved one who is suffering.
Self-compassion can lower internal stigma and reduce our personal barriers to seeking help for problems like addiction or mental health issues. A 2017 paper published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology found that many college aged men do not seek mental health services due to masculine societal norms but “men with higher self-compassion reported a weaker relationship between masculine norm adherence and help-seeking barriers.”
Self-compassion protects us from ourselves. Another 2017 study published in School Psychology Quarterly found that self-compassion protects adolescents from inflicting self-harm because “those high on self-compassion may be more likely to use adaptive strategies” for dealing with pain and suffering. These studies confirm what psychologists have been saying for years, that self-compassion may be even more important than self-esteem.