Written by: Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW
Trying to be perfect? Have difficulty when you make a mistake? Do you have a loud and not so nice inner critic? Here comes the need for a little Self Compassion! Being kind to yourself can go a long way in moving you forward confidently and happily in life. Often people accept and appreciate the love and support friends and family (hopefully) give us. We can forgive and accept our best friend when they make a mistake, but what about kindness and forgiveness for ourselves? Often, we can be our worst enemy-unforgiving and picking at our own flaws. When we treat ourselves with compassion and accept our human flaws, we are creating a better quality of life and a happier state of mind.
Negative thinking or the inner critic are parts of an outdated evolutionary set of emotions that trigger our survival mode. These difficult emotions, like anxiety or fear, can be signals to the self that our survival and well-being may be at risk and we need to do something different to be ok, to survive. Survival mode gone haywire may look like your inner critic on a rampage! Understanding emotions and how they motivate our behavior and our inner critic can be helpful, especially, if you have the perspective to understand them.
Self-compassion? Survival mode? The inner critic? So, what exactly are we talking about? We are wired to survive and often seek to thrive but misstep in how we get there. Self-compassion is more than how you talk to yourself (positive self-talk) or how you think about yourself (self-esteem); it is a practice of understanding yourself, expectations, acceptance and forgiveness. What you do and think really can lead to longer lasting happiness and better mental health wellness.
If you feel like you are in survival mode, in combat with yourself with that nagging little voice telling you “You did it wrong!” …this is the article for you. Think about treating yourself like you would someone you love. Is it the same? Different? Oftentimes when we make a mistake, we create a set of negative beliefs speaking through our inner critic telling us we could do better. We are human and humans are not perfect. When we treat ourselves with self-compassion, we normalize difficult feelings, understanding it’s part of the human experience and give ourselves some kindness in managing difficult emotions. We understand that difficult situations and stressful feelings don’t reflect who we are or our abilities. Life happens!
When we realize that our behavior isn’t self-defining it can deepen our understanding of ourselves by allowing us to self-reflect. We can create more happiness and decrease anxiety and depression. Part of being human is learning, making mistakes, and evolving. Joy Johnson, LCSW in The Value of Self-Compassion identifies 4 elements of Self Compassion that ring true:
- Mindfulness-Paying attention to what you are doing and thinking. Avoiding self-judgment but deepening your understanding. What can you learn from your experience? Put it in perspective.
- Self-acceptance-Acknowledge that you are human and have flaws. Difficult emotions, errors, regret, even suffering is part of a natural range of experiences and emotions.
- Grounding in your values-What is most important to you? What are your core values? What is most important to you? Seeing the larger picture can assist in perspective and make even the biggest embarrassment seem smaller.
- Loving-kindness-Be kind to YOURSELF! Give yourself some TLC, some patience and understanding. If you can treat yourself kindly, even during difficult times, it will make you a better friend for others…and yourself!
Self-compassion is an important way to bring happiness to your day and more meaning to your life. Consider your perspective, self-acceptance, and understanding we don’t need to be in survival mode all the time. How we treat ourselves is a great indicator of how we relate to others and how happy we can be. Take a moment, think of one thing you can do today, to take care of YOU. Is there something you can forgive yourself for or accept in yourself? Want to learn more about self-compassion, caring for yourself and creating more happiness in your life? Seek out the support of a professional mental health provider, talk to a friend, your family or trusted adult. You got this, Girl!
Rachel Rubenstein, LCSW is an Arizona based Mental Health provider and owner of The Counseling Consultants, PLLC, a group of licensed Mental Health professionals serving kids and adults with a variety of Mental Health Wellness needs.