What is self compassion?
Put simply, acting with self compassion is treating yourself with kindness. With roots in Buddhist philosophy, the concept relies on the knowledge that your value is unconditional, and though you may make the occasional bad decision, that doesn’t mean you’re an entirely bad person.
According to Marina Neumann, here at New Life Portugal, self compassion is about balance. “Self compassion is not avoiding, suppressing, or denying. Rather, it’s about meeting your challenges with the qualities of mindfulness, common humanity, and self kindness,” she explains.
Although it’s very much about the self, acting with self compassion requires you to consider how you would choose to treat others and apply that to yourself. “For me, self compassion is a way of talking to ourselves, as we would when talking to a good friend that is suffering or going through challenges,” Marina continues. “Even in face of mistakes or failures, self compassion helps us to evaluate the situation without either self deprecation or defensive self enhancement.” How to cultivate more self compassion is an important thing.
Why is this kind of compassion important?
According to Marina, self compassion is a tool for quieting your inner critic. “Many people have a strong inner critic, which can be very harsh, often saying things in a way that one would never say to other people. Self compassion is a way to quiet this excessive critic, which also enables sustainable self confidence.”
Notably, acting with self compassion is something we can all benefit from as it’s a way of utilising positive emotion in the face of difficulty, trauma or self doubt. “We all should be able to relate to our poignant emotions and to cultivate positive emotions,” says Marina.
“High achievers may tend to deny their emotions, and although this could be considered normal, that can bring a high price to them, leading to burnout. When we are moved by emotions like kindness, compassion, empathy, and love, we can fully embrace life and all of the opportunities it presents,” she adds.
Benefits of caring about yourself
First and foremost, self compassion is key to nurturing your emotional wellbeing, but it can also have a multitude of other benefits.
How to cultivate more self compassion
Barriers to self compassion
As with all self improvement and emotional wellbeing constructs, acting with self compassion isn’t easy. In fact, there are a number of barriers that can all too often stop us from properly embracing the practice such as:
How to cultivate more self compassion, on the other hand, is not about self pity or thinking ‘poor me’, nor is it about feeling sorry for yourself or softening your character. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s about treating yourself with balanced, level-headed kindness. So when you make a mistake – we all do, we’re human – you are able to turn the feelings of shame and worry into drivers to want to do or act better in the future.
How to be kind to yourself
How to cultivate more self compassion? Self-kindness and self love doesn’t necessarily come easily to most of us. In fact, it takes a considerable amount of conscious effort to cultivate more self compassion.
To help, Marina recommends a simple exercise that requires you to briefly remove yourself from the situation and look at it from an outsider perspective. “Imagine you are writing a letter to yourself from a close friend or mentor perspective,” she explains. “This person knows you well, understands you and wants the best for you. What would they say to you about the challenges and opportunities you are facing?”
If that’s tricky, imagine you are instead a child. How would you speak to or comfort a child in the same stressful situation? Sometimes we find it easier to cultivate self compassion for those we deem more vulnerable or innocent than ourselves, so try treating yourself as you would a child.
Finally, many experts also recommend mindfulness as a way of cultivating more self compassion. Meditation and other mindfulness activities will help foster strong self connection, thus enabling us to better accept ourselves when experiencing a challenging situation or experience.
At New Life Portugal, conscious mindfulness is woven into all that we do, from our schedule to our training to even much smaller matters like how we turn up to meals.