The 3 Steps to Self-Compassion
What is self-compassion and how can it help you?
I came across the stairs pictured on this post while in a park in NY: "I will love you every step of the way." I saw it as a mantra for self-compassion. A reminder that while not every step is joyful, I deserve to love myself no matter what. I like the sound of that and I also acknowledge that it’s difficult to love or even like ourselves ‘no matter what.’ Because when we don’t get that job interview or that validation we were hoping for, many of us tend to be hard on ourselves.
You see, speaking to yourself in a harsh or belittling way is the total opposite of self-compassion. You might think, ‘Well, it can be good to be hard on yourself sometimes. It’ll push you to do better next time.’ Nope. In fact, that actually makes things worse (you’re kicking yourself when you’re already down!) and according to the research out there it’s the act of self-compassion that’s going to do the trick in those situations and beyond. Self-compassion has been found to reduce people’s suffering in the moment and also create long-term gains (Albertson et al., 2014).
So, what about when things get really difficult? What happens when our ‘steps along the way’ become heavy with doubt, fear, and shame? How do we practice self-compassion then? What does it really take? It takes practicing three key steps. Practicing them over and over until it becomes easier so that in those moments when you are ready to be your own worst enemy, you can be your best ally.
According to the experts, here are the three essentials to put self-compassion into action:
1) Self-kindness: An inner dialogue that is supportive and encouraging. When we gently acknowledge that we are doing the best we can.
2) Common humanity: Recognizing that everyone fails, makes mistakes, and is imperfect. When we realize this is a shared human experience, we feel less isolated in our pain.
3) Mindfulness: Approaching the present moment without judgment or avoidance. Whether it's pain or joy, we acknowledge and are present with it. If you are going to be compassionate towards yourself, you cannot be anywhere else but right. where. you. are.
In summary - be present with your emotional experience, acknowledge that we are all flawed, and speak to yourself with kindness and support. “I am here and I am flawed and I am doing the best I can; I will love myself through every step.”
Albertson, E. R., Neff, K. D., & Dill-Shackleford, K. E. (2014). Self-compassion and body dissatisfaction in women: A randomized controlled trial of a brief meditation intervention. Mindfulness, 6(3), 444–454. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-014-0277-3
Neff, K.D., Dahm, K.A. (2014) Self-Compassion: What it is, what it does, and how it relates to mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.self-compassion.org