Grace Notes

a blog about life’s everyday magic

November 10, 2023

Self-Compassion: Fostering a Kind Relationship with Yourself

Self-Compassion

Did you know the Latin root that the word “compassion” originated from means “to suffer with”? Compassion is an empathetic emotional response to someone’s suffering that makes you want to ease that person’s condition. Throughout your life, you may have shown compassion to countless people. But have you consistently extended that same level of kindness to yourself?

It can be hard to be kind to yourself often, especially if your automatic reaction is to criticize and be harsh. But that’s okay, as self-compassion is a skill. And you can practice that skill over time. Read on to learn more about self-compassion and how you can cultivate it.

Table of Contents

What Is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion means treating yourself with kindness and concern when you fail, make mistakes, or experience adversity. According to Kristin Neff, PhD, it involves:

  • Being mindful of painful feelings and thoughts.
  • Remembering you’re not alone – suffering and imperfection are part of the shared human experience.
  • Treating yourself with kindness when experiencing pain or failure instead of being harshly self-critical.

Self-Compassion and Resilience

It’s easy to think if you aren’t self-critical and hard on yourself enough, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. This misconception is due to the common belief that negative self-talk will result in better performance next time. 

As Harvard Business Review points out, a self-critical attitude leads to the judgment of self and others rather than the joy, meaning, and connection we all need to be whole and healthy. Such harshness only gives you a pessimistic view of your potential. Self-compassion, not self-critique, is the key to being resilient.

Self-Compassion and Self-Esteem

Photo by Hassan Ouajbir | Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 10

Self-Compassion and Self-Esteem

Although self-compassion and self-esteem both involve feelings of self-worth, there are differences. Self-esteem revolves more around feelings of pride, shame, triumph, and despair, with high self-esteem involving comparing yourself more favorably to others and vice versa. 

On the other hand, self-compassion is acknowledging that everyone struggles at times. You also don’t rely on achievements and other external sources of validation to feel valued. Self-compassion, because of that, is more constant than self-esteem.

Why Self-Compassion?

“The human heart is phenomenal with its capacity to embrace the spectrum of love’s expressions. There also exists the capacity for self-love and self-compassion. When we forgive ourselves and our shortcomings, laugh at our minor mistakes, see ourselves in the mirror and smile with admiration, and perhaps gift ourselves with time to enjoy life, we increase our boundless love for others and the world.” – Diane Sigala from Bella Grace Issue 23

As you practice self-compassion, you’ll likely feel more motivated to persist and attain your goals. That’s not to mention a myriad of other positive outcomes, including:

Self-Compassion and Resilience

Photo by Dominique Chapman | Bella Grace Issue 31

How to Practice Self-Compassion?

1. Art as a Catalyst for Self-Compassion

There’s a powerful yet often overlooked method for fostering self-compassion: artistic self-expression. Engaging in creative pursuits, whether through visual arts, writing, music, or other forms of expression, provides a unique avenue for self-discovery and healing.

Artistic expression allows you to externalize your internal struggles, giving form to emotions that may be challenging to articulate verbally. If you’re looking for a creative pursuit that seamlessly blends artistry, writing, and personal reflection, check out our Art Journaling magazine, where you can learn to capture your life through art.

2. Mindfulness: Embracing the Present Moment

One of the foundational pillars of self-compassion is mindfulness – to be present without judgment. Mindfulness enables you to observe your emotions and thoughts without attaching undue significance to them. It acts as a gentle guide, steering you away from self-criticism. 

Regular mindfulness practices like conscious breathing provide a space for introspection. These practices can help you recognize your thoughts and emotions without getting entangled.

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

Photo by Lucas Ottone | Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 11

3. RAIN: Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture

Developed by meditation teacher and psychologist Tara Brach, RAIN is an acronym representing a four-step process that guides you through moments of emotional difficulty. Recognizing involves acknowledging and identifying the emotions at play. Allowing encourages a non-judgmental acceptance of these emotions. Investigating entails delving deeper into the emotions to understand their roots and impact. Finally, nurturing involves offering yourself kindness and compassion in the face of emotional challenges.

Applying RAIN to self-compassion means approaching your own emotional struggles with the same care and understanding you would extend to a friend. 

4. Loving-Kindness Meditation

Loving-Kindness meditation, or “Metta” meditation, is a powerful tool for cultivating compassion towards yourself. This practice is to direct positive intentions inward to yourself and outward to others, even to those you may have difficulties with. By repeating phrases that express goodwill, you’ll gradually develop a sense of warmth and empathy.

5. Compassion-Focused Therapy

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) is a therapeutic approach developed by psychologist Dr. Paul Gilbert, designed to promote self-compassion. CFT integrates cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness and attachment theory to create a holistic framework for personal growth.

The treatment focuses on developing a compassionate mindset by challenging self-critical thoughts and nurturing a sense of self-worth. It encourages you to become a supportive and understanding inner companion yourself.

Self-Compassion

Photo by Jared Subia | Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 9

Questions for Cultivating Self-Compassion

1. We often put so much focus on being kind toward others that we forget about ourselves. Treating yourself with kindness and grace will make it easier to treat others the same way. We’re so quick to offer random acts of kindness to the different people in our lives. What are some of those acts that you can extend to yourself?

Prompt from Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 9

2. It can be hard to praise ourselves. We don’t want to come across as cocky or arrogant. What are three things you absolutely love about yourself?

Prompt from Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 10

3. It’s easy to think of ways to surprise our loved ones with little goodies to lift their moods or reward them for a victory. We need to treat ourselves too! It doesn’t have to be anything lavish or expensive. It can be something as simple as allowing yourself to snooze for another 15 minutes or buying that pint of ice cream you’ve been craving. What are some of your favorite small ways to treat yourself?

Prompt from Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 10

4. We’re so quick to think about all the things we’d like to change about ourselves, from our appearance to certain personality traits. What are all the things you’d never change about yourself? 

Prompt from Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 12

5. Think of some of the ways you show your friends how much you love and appreciate them, like a surprise treat on their doorstep or an unexpected note tucked into their purse. What are some of the ways you can show yourself the same sort of appreciation? 

Prompt from Field Guide to Everyday Magic Issue 12

 

We hope this blog serves as your reminder to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. In Bella Grace and Field Guide to Everyday Magic, we embrace self-compassion, mindfulness, and slow living through meaningful stories and thought-provoking prompts. Click here to check them out.

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