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Self-Compassion: The Missing Piece in the Puzzle of Wellbeing

Self-compassion is an often-overlooked, yet essential component of overall wellbeing. In simple terms, self-compassion is about being kind towards yourself and holding that space of kindness even when you make a mistake.

It is easy to be kind to yourself when things are going well. However, we are often harsh on ourselves when we make a mistake. We tend to believe that by criticising ourselves, we can change for the better. So we blame ourselves. With time, our inner critic grows stronger. It starts saying things like - “ You always make a mistake, you can never do this properly, you will fail…” 

Sometimes, we try to argue with our inner critic. Most of the time we don’t. We accept the criticism and believe it to be true. It hurts. It kills our motivation to work further and makes us think we are not capable. 

When a child is hurt, do you scold the child or talk to him/her in a loving, caring manner? In the same way, when you are hurt, why are you harsh on yourself?

We need to replace the inner critic with compassionate self-talk. A kind friend is what we need in times of distress. It is time we become that friend ourselves. To do that, let us understand what self-compassion is and how to practise it. 

Kristin Neff, a leading researcher and writer on the topic of self-compassion, says that "self-compassion entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism." She distills her research on self-compassion in her TED Talk called The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion which has over 2.5 million views.

She talks about three components of self-compassion - 

  1. Self-kindness: This talks about treating yourself with kindness and understanding when experiencing difficult emotions, rather than being self-critical or harsh. It highlights the importance of maintaining a non-judgemental attitude towards oneself. 
  2. Shared humanity: This component acknowledges the fact that suffering and failure are a part of the human experience. This is something we all have to experience at some point or other. It emphasises accepting the fact that we are all imperfect in our own way. Just a reminder that there are people who are also experiencing this suffering right now makes us feel less alone and helps to extend our compassion toward them as well.
  3. Being Mindful: Being mindful means paying attention to the present moment with an open mind and curious attitude, and being aware of one's thoughts and feelings without being judgemental about them. Mindfulness is an essential component when it comes to being self-compassionate. 

To be mindful of your emotions, think that you are the sky, while emotions are the clouds that come and go as per the wind. Just observe your emotions and accept them while being non-judgemental. 

How to practise self-compassion?

  • Talk to yourself in a kind and compassionate way.
  • Write yourself a self-compassion letter.
  • Be mindful of your negative emotions.
  • Accept that it’s okay to make mistakes and you are only human.
  • Be gentle towards yourself and DO NOT criticise every action of yours.
  • Let go of unrealistic expectations.
  • Forgive yourself. 

Self-compassion is what we need the most these days with the rise of social media, increased hype for perfectionism, and constant comparison with others. This leads to overthinking at times and results in self-criticism. When you replace this with self-love, it is beneficial to you as well as those around you. Only by being kind and compassionate towards yourself can you extend kindness to others. 

“You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.”

  • Buddha