Self-compassion is described by leading researcher Kristen Neff, as “giving yourself the same kindness and care you would give a friend.” Many would agree this is often easier said than done. Treating oneself with care can be especially challenging when one makes a mistake, is experiencing difficult emotions or is feeling self-critical.
Research from the field of neuroscience reminds us that acknowledging tough times and emotions is important, as what we resist, persists. Not only does pushing away the negative emotions actually make them stronger, it also diffuses our ability to experience positive emotions including joy, love and happiness.
A key component of self-compassion is accepting the fact that you are human. All human beings make mistakes, have unmet goals, and experience frustration in all different aspects of life. Perfect human beings simply do not exist.
Neff’s research finds self-compassion includes three core elements:
Mindfulness: A state of mind where one can observe thoughts and feelings without judgment. Take time to name the feeling and notice where you feel it in the body.
Common humanity: Recognizing that you are not alone. Others feel the same way as you and experience similar struggles.
Self-kindness: This takes the form of actually asking yourself “What do I need right now?” You might offer yourself kind words such as “may I forgive myself”, “may I be strong”, or “may I learn to accept myself as I am”. For some, it feels comforting to place one hand over the heart as they repeat caring words.
Self-compassion is a practice, and it takes time for it to feel natural. With repetition, it can become a “go to” strategy instead of numbing or pushing aside difficult feelings and experiences. By practicing the above steps of mindfulness, common humanity and self-kindness on a regular basis, you will reap the benefits of greater self-clarity and a stronger sense of emotional resilience.