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Research shows that you can increase the habit of self-compassion through practice. You can learn to be self compassionate and don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist, psychologist, or outpatient provider.

Understanding Compassion

Did you know the word compassion means to “suffer with?

When you think about how compassion relates to other people, it can help you to understand how to turn your feelings inward. When you feel compassion for someone, you’re understanding and kind to them regardless of if they’ve failed or made mistakes. You don’t judge them harshly.

When you feel compassion for another, it means that you understand how suffering, failure, and imperfection are all part of the shared human experience.

And self-compassion works the same way. It means acting the same way, with understanding and acceptance, only towards yourself.

Instead of judging yourself harshly or ignoring your pain, practicing self-compassion means recognizing that it’s a tough time and asking yourself how you can comfort and care for yourself in this moment. Self-compassion means you’re nice to yourself and you’re understanding in the face of personal failings.

Here are the three elements of self-compassion according to Dr Kristin Neff, an Associate Professor of Human Development and Culture, who has pioneered research in this field.

Self Kindness NOT Self Judgment

When you suffer, fail, or feel inadequate you can practice self-compassion by being warm and understanding toward yourself instead of ignoring your pain or criticising yourself. Self-compassion means you understand that life is about making mistakes and failing and that sometimes life will fall short of your expectations.

Self-compassionate people are often gentle with themselves during stressful situations. When you try to deny reality or fight against it, suffering increases in the form of stress, frustration, and self-criticism. However, when you practice self-compassion, you can accept your reality with sympathy and kindness, experiencing greater emotional equanimity.

Shared Human Experience NOT Isolation

Have you ever felt frustrated when things don’t go exactly as planned? This is often accompanied by an irrational but pervasive feeling of isolation. It feels as if you’re the only one suffering or making mistakes.

But, of course, the very definition of being “human” means we’re all vulnerable and imperfect. So, practicing self-compassion means recognizing that suffering and personal inadequacy are part of the collective human experience.

Everyone undergoes pain and suffering at different points in their lives and being self-compassionate means you understand that this isn’t something that happens to you alone.

Mindfulness NOT Over-Identification

Being self-compassionate doesn’t mean suppressing your negative feelings, but it doesn’t mean exaggerating them either. Self-compassion is a balanced approach that puts your situation into a broader perspective. It also comes from the willingness to observe your negative thoughts and emotions with openness and clarity so that you’re mindfully aware. It’s impossible to feel self-compassion if you ignore your pain. What’s more, mindfulness means that you’re not “over-identified” with thoughts and feelings; don’t get caught up and swept away by negative reactivity.

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