Perhaps we’ve heard a narrative that it’s selfish to show ourselves kindness. Perhaps we fear that showing ourselves compassion will stop us from pushing ourselves. Maybe there just isn’t enough time for self-care, when we have so many other things to do and other people to care for. Sometimes, being kind to ourselves might feel unfamiliar because we haven’t always been treated with kindness and compassion. Perhaps we’re not really sure that we deserve self-compassion – it’s for other people, people who need it more, people who are worthy of it.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, my view is that self-compassion is for everyone!
I don’t believe it makes us selfish, I believe it helps us to be aware of our difficulties and our humanity, and that this can help us grow in our compassion for others. I think that encouraging ourselves with kindness is more powerful than pushing ourselves with criticism. I believe we can make time, although it may only be two minutes in a busy day. I believe that no matter how badly we’ve been treated by others, we have a choice about how we treat ourselves. I believe that we all deserve self-compassion.
Self-compassion is about supporting ourselves with warmth and kindness, it’s being aware of our suffering and actively wanting to relieve it. It’s recognising our fallibility and showing ourselves forgiveness. What does it look like in practice? Well, it can be a range of different things, depending on who you are, what you like and what care you need. It’s about how we act towards ourselves and how we talk to ourselves.
It might be lighting a scented candle or using products typically marketed under the tag of ‘self-care’, it might be a formal self-compassion meditation, but it can also be simple acts of kindness towards ourselves. Perhaps taking a break from work, going out for a walk or calling a friend. It might be taking care of ourselves by eating regularly and maintaining a routine. Maybe it’s switching off social media or news when we notice that we’re getting stressed out by it. It might simply be acknowledging our feelings, without judgement: “wow, this is tough right now. It’s okay that I’m feeling this way.”
Personally, I show myself compassion by making time for things I enjoy, like talking to friends and spending time in nature. I find it helpful to ask myself ‘what would I say to a friend?’ to remind me to be kind to myself. If I’m down, I’ll curl up watching a show I like or play my favourite tunes and have a dance around! I’m also working on responding to myself kindly when I make a mistake, rather than berating myself. This showed up this week when I dropped my favourite mug… A couple of months ago if this had happened, you’d have heard me say out loud ‘you idiot!’. But this week, before cleaning up the broken pieces, I turned away, paused, I took a big, deep breath and swallowed down the urge to voice my inner critic (though it was still there). Instead of getting angry at myself, I made room for sadness to show up. That’s okay – it is sad when we lose things, especially things we love! It’s a small example, but it’s a step towards a more self-compassionate life. I know that self-compassion takes practice, that it doesn’t always come naturally. But I trust that I – and everyone else – deserves compassion and that it isn’t selfish to be self-compassionate.
I’d like to close by leaving you with a call to action… what can you do today to show yourself some kindness?