Self-compassion is one of the most important tools I’ve recently learned – it’s taken 26 years but it’s been worth the wait. It’s taken sheds full of beating myself up to get there, but I’m on the self-compassion path now! The more compassion I show myself, the more I realise I could’ve provided all the props for the book Fifty Sheds of Grey – as long as they required sheds that were full of self-abuse, self-sabotage, and self-loathing! The reason I’m only just realising how hard I’d been on myself now is two-fold: firstly, I’m on the other side of the self-loathing now (or, at least, on the journey to the other side), and, secondly, the stream of negative thoughts was so constant, so engrained in my behaviour, that I just assumed that ‘that’s how things are’ and it would be impossible to change.
I see compassion as ‘active sympathy’ – taking action to try to soothe and understand a part of you or a situation you’re going through. Here are my tips to help you start, or continue, being kind to yourself:
- Imagine someone talking to you the way you talk to yourself (when it’s negative); would you want them in your life?
- Imagine that whatever you’re going through, your best friend or a family member is also going through. Would you talk to yourself the same way as you talk to yourself about what you’re experiencing?
- Judgements and negative generalisations are a large part of being hard on yourself; we judge ourselves for so many things. We are ‘a failure’, or ‘a bad person’, we ‘should be slim’, ‘should (or shouldn’t) have said X, Y or Z’ or ‘shouldn’t be feeling like this’, etc etc – the list is endless! Notice the use of ‘should’ too – there’s no ‘should’! There’s no set way to live your life – you determine it. And remember, if it’s in the past, you did exactly what you could at the time, with the knowledge and emotional intelligence of that moment. Experience is something we get immediately after we need it, so you did the best you could at the time.
- I mentioned negative generalisations; it’s important to recognise where you generalise things. As the saying goes, the only things that are inevitable are death and taxes. So if, for example, you have a recurring thought/belief that you are ‘a failure’ this implies that you are ALWAYS a failure. It also depends on your definition of a ‘failure’. There are also varying degrees of ‘failure’. My point is that the belief isn’t ALWAYS true; try to focus on the (sometimes tiny) evidence that the belief isn’t true.
- Remember you’re doing the best you can. If you’re feeling overwhelmed it’s probably a build up of loads of things over time that have caught up with you – so feeling this way is not a sign that you’re weak, it’s a sign that you’ve just dealt with way too much than you can cope with.
- Give yourself a break! Being kind to yourself on the inside is definitely the most important kind of compassion, but it doesn’t hurt to spoil yourself once in a while. You could get a massage, for example; just do something that you love doing that’ll reward you for all you’ve been through.
- Take it slowly; if you’ve been beating yourself up about something (or everything) for a long time, just gradually ease in the compassion – don’t expect yourself to be able to instantly be kind to yourself about everything, just notice little victories and focus on them – they’ll soon turn into massive wins!
Go on – be kind to yourself!