How to Have Self-Compassion | Orlando Therapist Shares Helpful Information
Over the years, a number of renowned psychologists have been critical of the concept of “self-esteem” and different theories have been proposed. One of these theories is Albert Ellis’ concept of “unconditional self-acceptance”. He writes, “I do not have intrinsic worth or worthlessness, but merely aliveness. I’d better rate by traits and acts, but not my totality or my ‘self’. I fully accept myself, in the sense that I know I have aliveness and I choose to survive and live as happily as possible, and with minimal needless pain. I require only this knowledge and this choice – and no other kind of self-rating” (Ellis, 1999). Similarly, Kristin Neff, a psychologist well known for her work on self-compassion writes, “Self-compassion is an emotionally positive self- attitude that should protect against the negative consequences of self-judgment, isolation, and rumination (such as depression). Because of its non-evaluative and interconnected nature, it should also counter the tendencies towards narcissism, self- centeredness, and downward social comparison that have been associated with attempts to maintain self-esteem” (Neff, 2003).
These theories are quite different from the contingent-based concept of self-esteem, which implies that we are only as good as our latest success or achievement or what others may think about us. In other words, with the concept of self-esteem, when you’ve achieved something good you are good and when you’ve not achieved something good, you are bad. With the concept of self-esteem, we feel anxiety, depression, frustration and inadequacy when we don’t perceive ourselves to be remarkable, well liked or on top of our game.
On the other hand, self-compassion means that we experience our suffering without avoiding or disconnecting from uncomfortable emotions, while we work on easing suffering by treating our self with kindness by understanding and accepting our pain, inadequacies and failures. There isn’t an expectation to feel amazing about one’s self, instead we strive to accept and understand that we are fallible, like all human beings.
So how can you develop more self-compassion?
Try the following:
- Change your negative self-talk. For many, their inner critic shows up whenever they feel they’ve “messed up” in some way. It can be anything, getting a C when you strived to get an A; when you’ve spilled the milk; when you didn’t get the promotion you worked so hard to get. We tell our self “You can’t do anything right”, “You’re such a looser”, “You’re so fat”, and worse. Such self-talk is destructive. Instead, ask yourself if you would ever say such things to a friend and work on talking to yourself the way you would talk to someone you cared about.
- Embrace your imperfections. Remember that none of us is perfect. We all have flaws and we make mistakes. Instead of trying to appear like you have it all together and that you’re perfect, allow others to see the perfectly imperfect you and remember, that they are flawed, just like you. Trying to be something you’re not is exhausting. Remember that it’s okay if someone doesn’t like you – you don’t like everyone either. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do something someone else can. We all have our weaknesses and our strengths. Keep in mind that the people who love you don’t love you because you’re perfect – they love you with all of your faults and flaws.
- Normalize your negative experience. Recognize and accept what you’re experiencing. For example, if you’re experiencing anxiety, don’t awfulize it by telling yourself that you absolutely should not be feeling anxious and that you absolutely can’t stand it. Instead accept that you’re feeling anxious and that this feeling, too, shall pass. Practice being a compassionate observer of your negative experience and emotional states instead.
- Practice mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness can help you to develop a non-judgmental and nonreactive awareness of all experiences, emotions, thoughts and physical sensations. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to observe and acknowledge negative or painful thoughts and feelings without avoiding them or over-identifying with them.
At GroundWork Counseling in Orlando, our caring therapists and counselors can teach you how to be kinder to yourself, self-regulate your emotions, and tolerate distress. Learning these skills leads to a reduction in depression and anxiety and can help you to begin cultivating self-compassion in your life. There is no better time than this present moment to begin.
Call GroundWork Counseling