5 Steps Toward Self-Compassion

*Quick mindfulness exercise on “10 Things I Love” – Find a piece of paper and a pen (or use your phone!) and begin listing 10 things you love. Once you have this list, keep reading.

A Harvard study (probably the coolest study in my opinion) found that the number one contributor to happiness is: keeping good relationships. After studying participants for over 75 years, researchers found out that the key to living a happy and long life is not money, fame, or something outside of ourselves. Good relationships are what keep us happier and healthier. And while we learn to navigate through our relationships in being able to better communicate and listen to others, what we are not taught is to learn and understand the most important relationship: the relationship that we have with ourselves.

If the phrase be kind to yourself resonates with you, then you are aware of the fact that we tend to be hard on ourselves. Sometimes it is good to take a step back and observe the inner critic. In thinking about something that you are unhappy with yourself in this moment – it may be something you feel that you are lacking, or feel like you can do better, ask yourself this: Why am I being hard on myself? What feeling or emotion comes up when I think about this? Now take a second to pause and breathe. Bring to mind someone who loves you unconditionally. How would this person respond to the way you are feeling? Showing ourselves that same gentleness and care, teaches us about self-compassion.

When we become aware of our inner critic and learn to understand our relationship with ourselves, we are more mindful about the things we are telling ourselves. Practicing mindfulness has been found to have a positive impact on self-compassion, as it encourages us to move away from self-judgment and teaches us to let go some of the ill feelings we hold towards ourselves. Instead of “wandering around in problem-solving mode all day, thinking mainly of what you want to fix about yourself or your life, you can pause for a few moments throughout the day to marvel at what is not broken. You” (Kristin Neff). We need to learn to be more mindful and self-compassionate, and truly connect to ourselves.

*If you completed the “10 Things I Love” mindful exercise, how long did it take to list yourself?

Here are five steps to connect to yourself and practice self-compassion:

Step #1 – Be aware of your struggle. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, become mindfully aware of those feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Often we are unaware because we are so caught up in fixing the problem or consumed by the emotions or feelings. Spend a moment to just bee and take back control knowing that these emotions or feelings are temporary.  

Step #2 – Practice forgiveness. Your family and friends love you for who you are; they do not love you for being perfect. We tend to be hard on ourselves, especially when we do not meet our own expectations for who we want to be. Forgive yourself for your shortcomings and embrace your imperfections. Give yourself permission to be human.

Step #3 – Be your own best friend. Practice being more kind and gentle with yourself. Know that instead of being your biggest enemy, you can become your own best friend. Listen to the inner critic when you need to, but also learn to speak the language of support and encouragement when talking to yourself. Sometimes all it takes is a moment of looking in the mirror and saying “you got this.” 

Step 4 – Remind yourself that everyone struggles. Know that you can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time. Everyone struggles, and that is part of human life. Recognize that almost all of the time, things are out of our control. We may not be able to control a situation, but we can choose how we want to respond or react to it.

Step 5 – Be grateful. Give yourself some appreciation. Your body works hard to take care of you without you telling it to. And sometimes all it takes is to breathe to feel grateful. One of my favorite quotes of all time: “deep breaths are like little love notes to your body” (Kelly Rae Roberts). 

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