Cultivating Self-Compassion

By: Samantha Kallberg
cultivating self compassion

What would the world be like if you talked to yourself as you would a good friend?

Providing warmth and kindness to others when they’re experiencing pain can be easier than doing the same to ourselves during difficult times. 

One way to build your capacity for kindness towards yourself? Practice self-compassion.

Read on for an intro to self-compassion. What it is, why it’s important, and two ways you can start practicing it today:

What is self-compassion?

It is often easier for us to be compassionate towards others when they are experiencing a difficult situation or emotion. Components of compassion include showing an understanding through kindness by not passing judgement on the person experiencing pain. Self-compassion is applying the compassion that you may provide to others to yourself when you are having a difficult time. 

Conceptualized by Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion comprises three elements: 

  • self-kindness: being considerate and understanding towards yourself instead of being critical
  • common humanity: remembering that pain and imperfection are experienced by all humans and you are not alone
  • mindfulness: having a nonjudgemental awareness of all experiences, including thoughts and feelings. 

Practicing all three elements can improve your ability to care about yourself and move through painful experiences

Why is it important?

The way we talk to ourselves has been shown to impact mental health, thus it is important to be aware of self-criticism. By practicing self-compassion, we become more aware of self-criticism and work on replacing thoughts through self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. The more we practice this the easier it becomes to get into the habit of being compassionate.

Two ways to start using self-compassion:

  1. What would I tell a good friend?

If you find yourself being critical or struggling with a certain situation, take a step back and:

  • Ask yourself, “If a good friend came to me in this situation, what would I tell them?” 
  • Notice what answer comes up
  • Compare to what you have been telling yourself 
  • Next, try telling yourself what you would tell a friend in the situation. (Comment below what you noticed!
  1. Self-compassion journal

Journaling is one technique that can have mental and physical health benefits through expressing emotions. Self-compassion journaling is one of the many different ways to journal, using the three components of self-compassion.
  

  • Take a moment to sit down and journal about something that you felt bad about or judged yourself. 
  • Start by being mindful as you identify and write down the different emotions you experienced in the situation. 
  • Next, practice common humanity by writing down ways that your reaction was a human response to the situation and recognizing that humans are imperfect (“Everyone worries sometimes, it’s only human”). 
  • Finally, practice self-kindness by writing down kind words of comfort towards yourself about the situation. Try keeping a journal for one week and see what you notice! 

Try it out:

Choose one of these strategies and see what you notice! 

Samantha Kallberg, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the PsyD in Counseling Psychology program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. Her research and clinical interests include body image, disordered eating, trauma, anxiety, and depression.

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