The Foundation of a Healthy Relationship with Ourselves: Self-Compassion

On our journey of self-discovery in this life, there are ​pains, difficulties, mistakes, and failures​ as much as happiness, excitement, and success. Suppose a close friend of yours has failed an important test and feels inadequate. How would you talk to him/her during this difficult time to support, share her feelings, and make her see her strengths?

Consider yourself in the same situation and notice the similarities and differences between the conversation you will have with yourself and that you will have with your friend. For many of us, there is quite a difference between the two.

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When people make mistakes or fail, the understanding we show towards them for some reason may not be the same when it comes to ourselves. Our understanding and supportive approach towards our loved ones, relatives, and even strangers become critical, harsh, and judgmental when we are the ones making the mistake. In fact, almost all of us experience this in our daily lives. ​“You ruined everything!”, “You can’t do anything!”, “You failed again.”​ are such sentences we don’t even use for people we don’t know. However, we can often speak against ourselves in this cruel, critical tone, and we judge and blame ourselves when we suffer, the time we need support and compassion the most.

Self-compassion​ is the first and most important thing you need to turn down this cruel, critical voice that you put on yourself when you go through difficult times and maybe always keeps you from something. That is because the most basic way to build a healthy relationship with ourselves is to realize our feelings and thoughts and show ourselves the necessary understanding and compassion.

Self-compassion is a concept we’ve heard a lot in recent years. Especially, many studies address the importance of the relationship ​​between mindfulness and self-compassion. So, what is self-compassion and what should we understand when we say self-compassion? 

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What is Self-Compassion?

Dr. Kristin Neff from the University of Austin-Texas and clinical psychologist and meditation instructor ​Dr. Christopher Germer​ are the two prominent names regarding self-compassion.

One of the pioneers of research on this subject, Dr. Kristin Neff, defines self-compassion ​as​ treating ourselves with warmth and understanding as to a friend when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, instead of ignoring our pain or criticizing ourselves.

Self-compassion may seem like a self-centered approach to some. Being compassionate towards ourselves can be perceived as a result of seeing ourselves at a higher level by separating ourselves from others. However, on the contrary, self-compassion ​entails seeing ourselves as a part of the common humanity; in other words, recognizing that we are equally worthy of respect and compassion as everyone else. Self-compassion enables us to embrace pain and our experiences by seeing we can experience similar things with many people.

Self-compassion should not be understood as self-pity either. When people pity themselves, they get lost in their emotions and forget that others may have the same problems, and they tend to think that they are the only ones with this problem. But the act of self-compassion is the result of seeing oneself as part of a shared experience with others, rather than positioning oneself as separate and independent.

The 3 Components of Self Compassion

Kristin Neff states that self-compassion consists of three basic components. These are:

1. Self-Kindness:

Treating ourselves with kindness and understanding rather than being critical and judgmental is the first element of self-compassion. On some occasions, instead of feeling inadequate and blaming you may find that you are doing your best kindly.

2. Common Humanity

The common sense of humanity is to see that what we experience is not an isolated experience, but that all people experience similar things, and therefore to understand that this is a part of common humanity. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect. We, too, are a part of these mistakes and imperfections. By looking at ourselves from this broad perspective, we can show the same compassion we show others.

3. Mindfulness

Self-compassion begins with recognizing our pain. One of the most basic elements of self-compassion is noticing our painful thoughts and feelings and observing them with awareness in a balanced way without getting lost in these feelings and thoughts and being able to look at the reality of the moment without judgment.

The Relationship between Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

To show compassion for ourselves, we must first be aware of our painful thoughts and feelings. Sometimes we may not be aware of this pain because it is caused by our criticisms and judgments, that is, internal reasons. However, with mindfulness, observing our feelings and thoughts with clear awareness and without judgment makes it easier for us to embrace our pain and approach ourselves with compassion. Thus, mindfulness is one of the most fundamental components of self-compassion.

“Mindfulness brings us back to the present moment and provides the type of balanced awareness that forms the foundation of self-compassion. Like a clear, still pool without ripples, mindfulness perfectly mirrors what’s occurring without distortion. Rather than becoming lost in our own personal soap opera, mindfulness allows us to view our situation with greater perspective and helps to ensure that we don’t suffer unnecessarily.”

Self-Compassion and Emotional Resilience

Self-compassion is a well-known method of coping with difficult emotions. ​Studies​ show that being compassionate towards ourselves increases our emotional resilience. If we can approach ourselves with more understanding, we can more easily recognize and accept our mistakes and fears. This makes it easier for us to cope with difficulties and face our fears. ​

​By research, it has been shown that people who practice self-compassion experience less depression, anxiety, and stress problems, and their psychological well-being is higher. In summary, self-compassion has many known benefits and we all need it.

Try making the act of self-compassion a part of your life to build a healthy relationship with yourself and others on this journey.

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