‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another’ – William James
Berating ourselves and negative self-talk keeps us down. It’s also fundamentally unfair too. Being self-compassionate where we are choosing to be fairer and kinder to ourselves helps tremendously with our well-being and esteem. Here we look at why self-compassion can be helpful and ways in which you can be nicer to You.
What is self-compassion?
It’s about being fair and kind to ourselves; to be warm and understanding and to treat ourselves as we would someone we love. It’s about turning compassion inward and being caring to yourself when you’re having a tough time. It’s being understanding and fair, to show yourself patience and to be accepting of your strengths and limitations. It’s especially valuable when we’re feeling low. It’s easy to feel inadequate in a competitive world where we’re bombarded with images and messages of someone else’s view of ideal.
Why are we self-critical?
Negative-self talk feeds anxiety and depression and causes an increase in stress and reduces self-esteem. It makes us feel bad about ourselves, takes our attention from the present and prolongs our ability to recover from stress and low mood.
It can be very easy to berate ourselves and there are many influences that contribute to how these unhealthy habits are formed. We learn behaviour from other adults around us growing up. If we noticed others do it, especially people who are close or trusted, we follow this. Also, we can be taught that berating ourselves is the right thing to do. Parents and teachers may be critical as a method of highlighting faults to motivate us to do better. We then adopt this as a way to motivate ourselves, which can become dysfunctional and we always work so much better with reward than punishment. There can be a cultural conditioning where it can be viewed as arrogant or conceited to speak or even think highly of ourselves. This can discourage self-praise and encourage self-criticism.
Enquiring as to where our unhealthy habits come from can be useful to help with our understanding, but fundamentally, the awareness of what we’re doing right now and the impact of this is much more valuable. With awareness, we can begin to orchestrate change.
Why being compassionate to ourselves is helpful?
Self-compassion increases feelings of happiness and optimism. It also decreases anxiety, depression, rumination and fears of failure. These are significant reasons to reduce negative self-talk and develop our ability to be kinder and fairer to ourselves; to be an encouraging and accepting force.
The knock on effects of this means we can connect with others and develop relationships rather than being stuck in ourselves or in our own low mood which can create avoidant behaviours. As we are having an approving sense of self, we’re more motivated for self-care which further increases our esteem allowing us to feel a greater sense of balance and self-acceptance.
It helps with our resilience. When there are stressors and difficulties, where our negative self-talk will put us down and make us believe we can’t deal with something, self-compassion allows to find ways to tackle difficulties and utilise the resources around us as we move towards facing problems with a sense of optimism.
How to be Self-Compassionate
This starts with awareness – By gaining an awareness of how we treat ourselves. This is easiest to identify when something has gone wrong or when we’re stressed. At these times, try to become aware of what you’re telling yourself.
- Are you being nice or are you being harsh?
- What messages are you giving yourself – It can be helpful to write these down.
- What could you say differently? What would you be saying to a friend who was in this position?
It’s helpful to become accepting of ourselves which means noticing how we live our values as we express kindness, love and consideration as well as accepting our errors, mistakes and shortcomings too. It’s ok for us to be human and to treat ourselves as though we’re someone we love.
Once we notice how we’re treating ourselves we can look to alter this to be kinder. Writing can aid this process as this engages the logical parts of our mind and can we consider the kind of messages that we’d like to give ourselves.
As always, please leave any feedback or comments.