It seems this “self-compassion” buzzword has been everywhere lately- but what exactly is it, what gets in the way of being compassionate with yourself, and how can you start to practice implementing it?

Self-compassion is working to respond to yourself with kindness, empathy, and understanding. This approach is an alternative to negative self-talk which is often littered with judgement and criticism of oneself. Increasing self-compassion in your relationship with yourself can lead to increased happiness, optimism, curiosity, and an overall reduction in anxiety.

Barriers to self-compassion

Gentle self-compassion can be difficult to access at times, especially when past patterns of spiraling into negative self-talk are not only familiar, but also appealing. Because negative self-talk is so ingrained, it can have a sense of feeling safer than the unfamiliar road of being kind and compassionate towards oneself.

Another barrier to self-compassion is when negative self-talk can also be disguised as motivation. Have you found yourself using cruel, bullying language in an effort to motivate yourself to manage a situation differently? This attempt to motivate can also feel appealing because it comes from a misguided place of attempting to better oneself.

Often negative self-talk, or speaking to cruelly to ourselves, has become such a habit that it’s hard to catch, much less change. Try the steps below to start exploring self-compassion for yourself!

Steps towards self-compassion

Notice. Start with noticing your critical thoughts. It can be hard to know when to use self-compassion when you don’t know what the moments are when you’re needing it the most. Take a curious look at how you’re talking to yourself all day.

  • Are you talking down to yourself?
  • Are you feeling frustrated with something you perceive you did wrong, or an element of
    yourself that you do not like?
  • Are you blaming yourself?

Any of these moments are helpful to notice and identify the thought so you can then…

Pause. A key part of the interacting differently with your thoughts is working to slow down the all too familiar patterns. By pausing you’re able to give yourself a moment to separate from the thought. What is it like to stop in that moment, and give yourself space from the thought and circumstances which are frustrating you?

Respond with compassion. Now is the time to work to change those patterns! Some ideas for shifting these thoughts are:

  • Consider your best friend: How would you respond to your best friend if they were sharing these thoughts with you? What would you say to them? What might they need? Explore what it would be like to soothe yourself with that same reassurance you would provide your best friend.
  • Show yourself kindness through your body: Often changing your physical experience or environment can help with working to shift a negative self-talk spiral. Are you able to go for a mindful walk and feel the cold air and notice the buildings and nature around you? What is it like to focus on your breath through inhaling deeply through your nose for 6 counts, holding your breath for 7 counts, and slowly exhaling for 8 counts? What about taking a warm shower? All of these techniques work to change the experience in your body, which can help to break the patterns of thoughts.
  • Shift your criticism through positive affirmations: Negative self-talk often incorporates repeating themes. These may include feelings of being unworthy, incompetent, unlovable, inadequate, unattractive, etc. A way to intervene with these pervasive themes is to work to add positive affirmations to shift your internal dialogue. Examples of affirmations are:
    • “I am loved, loving, and lovable.”
    • “I am enough and will always be enough the way I am.”
    • “I, alone, am completely whole, and I am complete just the way I am.”

Try to review your affirmations often, and place them in places you’ll see often (displayed on your phone’s wallpaper, your refrigerator, or your bathroom mirror).
If you are struggling with negative self-talk and being compassionate to yourself, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Contact Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our skilled therapists!