Building Self-Compassion

One of the most difficult things that we face is is to have compassion for ourselves. While we may find it easy to have compassion for others, when it comes to ourselves we can often be our worst critics. When we make mistakes, we sometimes experience a repetitive, self-critical voice that repeats like a needle stuck on a worn groove on a broken record. That voice is trying to protect us, to make us do or not do something important, but it usually doesn’t help. Instead, it makes us feel worse which can actually make it harder to act in accordance with our values and also harder to change.

Building Self-Compassion

• The best way to change yourself is to accept yourself just as you are. Carl Jung said: “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

• Gratefully acknowledge the critical message and move on. When you hear the critical voice, listen to the message that it is trying to give to you. Once you have acknowledged it, you can thank the critical voice for its concern and know that it is trying to protect you albeit in a misguided way.

• Trying to change ourselves using shame or blame back fires. It makes us feel more anxious and upset and therefore more likely to make mistakes.

• The next time that you are in the throes of self-criticism try to imagine talking to yourself outside of yourself. If you are a teacher imagine talking to a valued student; if you are a parent imagine talking to your beloved child. How would you speak to a student or beloved child that is berating him or herself? Try being just as kind and compassionate with yourself. Imagine yourself as that person deserving of compassion as if you were sitting outside of yourself and across from yourself.

• Adopt a daily compassion practice: Sit quietly for a few minutes each day and say something to yourself like: “May I be at ease,” “May I be peaceful,” “May I be free of suffering.” (These sayings come from meditation practice). You can also wish good things to yourself and others. Here is a wise saying from an ancient source: “Because of my brothers and friends, I speak of peace to you…I ask good things for you.” Try saying this yourself and acknowledging that you too are deserving of good things and peace.

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