The one relationship that you will have consistently throughout your life, that will never leave you, is the one that you have with yourself. Doesn’t it make sense that we work to make sure that that relationship is as positive as possible? Self-compassion is a neglected but crucial aspect of what it means to be a happy human being. So many of us walk around with a rampant internal critic and most of us simply try to ‘manage’ that voice and to get by. However, the way that we treat ourselves is a communication to the rest of the world about what we feel we deserve and expect from others. If we want to attract more positive experiences and love into our lives, then we must start with the relationship that we have with ourselves.
We all grow up with a set of values and expectations about how we ‘should’ be in the world. Whenever we fall short of those expectations, so many of us chastise and criticise ourselves. My experience in both my personal life and at work is that people respond most positively to supportive encouragement and love. If we want to have fulfilled and happy lives, then first we must be kind and compassionate to ourselves.
“If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.” Dalai Lama
I like to provide my clients with a 4-step plan to developing more self-compassion:
1. Practice self-acceptance. When you are shrouded in self-hatred and shame, it’s very difficult to connect with any sense of love toward yourself. Acceptance is a much more tangible goal. Acceptance is neither good nor bad, it’s simply an opportunity for you to start from where you’re at now…I accept where I am today.
2. Foster a sense of gratitude. So many of us are always looking to tomorrow, wanting what we don’t yet have and resenting our current circumstances. Fostering a sense of gratitude for the simple things really helps to shift the energy of the people and circumstances that we are attracting into our lives.
3. Give love. Being more loving makes you feel good. So many of us view love as transactional…we are only willing to give it if we think we are going to get something in return. What would it be like to offer more kindness and love to anyone you come into contact with? My experience is that it only serves to fill us up, never does it take anything away from us.
4. Be mindful. If you hear that critical voice creeping in then don’t try to wrestle or argue with it. Ask yourself how you would talk to a dear friend and then use that compassionate voice on yourself.
Self-compassion takes practice but you can achieve it. You weren’t always unkind to yourself, there was a time that you viewed the world with awe and wonder.