So often we feel stuck in our lives. Maybe we can’t seem to find a healthy romantic relationship or we’re in a dead-end job, or we keep delaying starting that hobby. As we struggle to maintain a healthy amount of control in our lives, we may become dispirited, feeling as if we’ve missed our lucky train and it’s just too late.
Recent findings show that constant self-judgement and shame inhibit the brain’s learning centers, depriving us of the reserves we need to learn and grow. Even so, shame limits our belief in ourselves, isolating us on an island of helplessness and self-loathing.
It’s easy to be tough on yourself – we do it much more often than we realize. But what if there was a better way? Instead of beating yourself down, you choose to accept your flaws and show yourself kindness. That’s what we call self-compassion. It’s often a lot harder than it sounds, but practice makes perfect.
Change Your Mindset To Change Your Life
Normally, it’s often challenging to lift yourself up (especially if you’re really ashamed), but if you want to change your life for the better (no matter in what sense), you have to change your mind.
The alternative to shame and helplessness is self-compassion – the only practice that can bring kindness and care to your own suffering. It might seem surprising that this common practice can bring about great change, but research bears out that an attitude of kindness improves our ability to learn from mistakes.
To put it another way, people who are kinder toward themselves are more resilient and ready to make progress toward health-related goals like exercising, losing weight, quitting smoking, or recovering from drug abuse. Self-compassion is stronger than shame, and the practice of it can help us face those struggles chin-up-high with all the resources available to us.
Psychologists propose that when we practice self-compassion, we’re deactivating the care system in our system. The levels of oxytocin increase as we start feeling safe and connected. This level of comfort can help us when we’re going through difficult times that require us to change, acting as a powerful source of resilience and strength.
Treat Yourself a You’d Treat A Loved One
One good way to practice self-compassion is to treat yourself how you’d treat people you love. And while it may be difficult to take away others’ pain, you can at least validate its existence and provide support. In this respect:
Mistakes are opportunities to learn.
Common humanity and self-kindness tap into two distinct but connected points:
- We’re human but so is everybody else, and that’s okay. Why look to interpret your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings as who you are when you can let yourself off the hook when you might do the same for others. If your daughter gets mad and doesn’t want to answer your concerned phone calls, you won’t just assume she is a lost cause.
- Give yourself permission to be human once in a while. Learn to accept your flaws, and remind yourself that you’re not all perfect.
Be as empathetic to yourself as you are with others.
This is related to the way you understand yourself. If someone you care about is feeling down or upset, you might be able to soften her attitude and mood with a beauty advent calendar or offer some kind of physical comfort. Along with a tender and compassionate language, these gestures can lead us to feel self-kindness even if we’re initially hesitant.
Take care of your mind and body
One of the most considerate things you can do for yourself is to take care of your mind and body. Spend as much time as possible seeking new information, and be sure you surround yourself with positive people and positive things like good conversations, healthy food, and art.
Try to be mindful of what you consume and who you share your energy with. Once you begin doing this, you will be able to identify the things that did and didn’t make you feel good about yourself.
Obviously, you won’t always be seeking out positive things (you may struggle at times), but the perception of what would and would not affect your mind and body in a positive way will help you make more conscious, compassionate choices for yourself.
Use Affirmations to Motivate Yourself
In this sense, some self-compassion affirmations may be a bit different from the positive daily affirmation you’ve penned in your advent calendar 2022. You’re likely familiar with affirmations of values (things we consider personally important and meaningful) and using affirmations to broaden our sense of self-concept.
In turn, you will find that some affirmations are more focused on three components: common humanity, mindfulness, and self-kindness than they are on your ability to adapt to various situations. Affirmation of values are more goal-oriented and designed to motivate and spark our intention to change.
You can use the same set of affirmations to challenge your inner critic. Our tendencies to criticize, blame, or put ourselves down can’t be replaced unless we witness and try to reframe them.
Defeating our inner critic and replacing a negative string of thought thoughts with self-kindness might not be easy but is possible. It’s about replacing your negative self-talk with a mindful recognition of your feelings and giving yourself a solution rather than disapproval.
Self-compassion is invigorating. It usually takes conscious effort even to become aware of your mental process, but most invaluable things do require practice.