Tips for Practicing Self-Compassion and Loving Yourself
By: Shaila Anjum
The importance of loving yourself is underestimated. Psychologist Lisa Firestone describes self-compassion as a “consistent attitude of kindness and acceptance” toward oneself (2016). Life’s hardships are endless, and we will run into all kinds of people. Some will make us feel loved and important while others will not. Regardless of what type of people we meet and the interactions we have with them, you need to love yourself. Different people will see different sides of you. Not only because of what you put out there in different versions of you, but also because of how people perceive the world around them and their own internal schemas (patterns of thought and behaviour), which is something beyond your control. This is where it becomes crucial to love yourself. here is a list of some things you can do to love yourself a bit better:
Count the Small Steps
Don’t be hard on yourself. Psychologist Kristen Neff who operationally coined the term self-compassion says, “Rather than harshly judging oneself for personal shortcomings, the self is offered warmth and unconditional acceptance” (Neff, 2017). There may be a time you intend on doing something like going to the gym and once you get there, you may not have the best workout and leave feeling like you didn’t give your all. Instead of being hard on yourself, be happy you pushed to go even though you didn’t want to. Counting the small steps is important, but don’t confuse this with staying in a comfort zone in which case you stay stagnant and stop moving forward. Recognize the little accomplishments and give yourself credit for them, but also push for the bigger accomplishments and set goals.
Eliminate the "What ifs"
It’s good to think of possible outcomes to different actions when decision making, but it’s not healthy to get worked up over them and focus on them. For a lot of us these responses are involuntary and difficult to control. However, it is not impossible to learn how to take control of your thoughts. A previous blog post Managing Daily Occurrences of Anxiety dives deeper into understanding the ways we can try to get a better handle on our thought processes by becoming more aware of when they start to occur and consciously changing that thought process. Obsessing over negative outcomes can lead to panic attacks (Star, 2018). ‘What if’s’ are not only for thoughts around what may have already occurred but also about what may occur in the future. Both can be poisonous to self-love because they contribute to you being hard on yourself which hinders your ability to be effectively resilient and try again.
We underestimate what it may take to achieve a goal, how much time and effort and as we go along, we may learn that something else needs to be done first before we can accomplish the big picture. These unrealistic goals can wear us down very easily. Often the reason for our failures is because we did not realistically plan what it would take to achieve our goals. It’s okay to be imperfect and encounter a setback along the way. Be realistic in the sense that if or when you encounter a setback, you may have to work twice as hard but that’s okay. For example, if you are a smoker that is trying to quit, be realistic that there may be a chance you will relapse, and plan for this relapse. If you normally smoke a pack a day, you may plan by deciding that if you relapse, it’s okay because you are only human, and fallbacks are natural, BUT, when time comes you will maybe smoke a couple cigarettes and get rid of the remaining pack. What this does is when you have a fallback, you won’t beat yourself up for it and give up. You will be ready to put plan B into action and try again.
Another thing to talk about when being realistic is the expectations we have from people around us. Just as we are only human, and we make mistakes, so do others. No one is perfect and that is okay. Last night I was speaking to my teenage cousin who was bothered by the way her friend had handled a situation when her friend was hurt. I explained to her that we are all human and part of that is being emotionally overwhelmed from time to time in which we may not make the best decisions. Remember those times when maybe you blew up and knew you were wrong, but the emotions were just so powerful? It’s okay. Learn from it, move forward and be proud of yourself for recognizing your mistakes. For more on being realistic, you may be interested in reading my previous blog post Recognition and Awareness for Self-Improvement.
Being hard on ourselves when we encounter failures always comes so easy. What if you could make positive spins on negative situations just as easy? Wouldn’t it be great to feel the relief after a tough outcome because you are able to view it in a much better way? If you’re going through a breakup for example, remind yourself that it’s okay and you will be fine. Maybe it was a toxic relationship, maybe the fights were too much, maybe there was an important factor like loyalty or respect missing. A positive spin could be, ‘it’s a good thing I know now what I didn’t know before, now both of us can move forward and do better’. If you were the one that cheated or did something wrong by your partner, you can look at it as an opportunity to grow from.
Gratitude is another thing that can change your life. We forget to be consciously receptive to the good little things around us when we’re busy running from place to place and giving time to our commitments and priorities. In another blog post, On Gratitude: How it Can Change Your Life, you can learn about the benefits of a gratitude journal. In the beginning they seem quite easy and simple where you think about the absolute basics like family, friends, loved ones, house, food, then when the big easy things run out, you have to dig a little deeper: the freedom, the trees, the fresh water many countries don’t have, the opportunities, etc. If you don’t want to dive into journaling right now and it seems like a stressful commitment, no problem. I tend to give my thanks for what I have before bed. Gratitude plays a role in being compassionate toward the world around us and in turn, ourselves. By appreciating your surroundings, you begin to appreciate your ability to do this and apply it to yourself.
Firestone, L. (2016). The many benefits of self-compassion. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/compassion-matters/201610/the-many-benefits-self-compassion
Neff, K. D. & Germer, C. (2017). Self-Compassion and Psychological Wellbeing. In J. Doty (Ed.) Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science, Chap. 27. Oxford University Press.
Star, K. (2018). How perfectionism can impact panic and anxiety. Retreived from https://www.verywellmind.com/perfectionism-and-panic-disorder-2584391