How to Cultivate Self-Compassion and be Kind to Yourself

how to cultivate self-compassion

Beating yourself up? Read this article to learn how to cultivate self-compassion and be kind to yourself.

Life can get really hard sometimes. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies all the time.

The brutal truth about life is that we lose loved ones; we face failures; we become sick; we get mistreated, and we suffer heartbreaks many times.

No one is spared!

Welcome to the Life of a human being.

The curveballs life throws at us can sometimes change the forward trajectory of life. The events and circumstances in the past can rearrange our thoughts, feelings, emotions and behaviour for the rest of our life.

Difficult emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger and sadness riddle our daily life.

Our memories don’t help either.

We change for the worst.

A feeling of hopelessness and helplessness can cloud us, and it feels impossible to break the shackles. The more we try to unleash ourselves, the greater becomes the suffering.

Our inability to stay strong and the crumbling spirit fills us with self-criticism, shame and anger.

We start to dread unfavourable situations, feel furious, restless, isolated, and so lonely. 

We wonder what can help us. Others notice the surface level storm, the emptiness, the restlessness, but few can see what’s going on underneath that surface.

We crave to be understood, loved, and accepted, but our actions push the very people whose attention we want away.

Before we seek to be understood by others and desire their kindness, we need to be a little kinder to ourselves.

Many of us are our own harshest critics, and when life decides to get rough, we start to beat ourselves up endlessly. A lack of self-compassion only prolongs our suffering.

What is Self-Compassion?

Sensitivity towards our suffering and a desire to alleviate the pain by being kind and understanding to our needs is Self-compassion.

It’s challenging to acknowledge our suffering when a range of emotions, feelings and thoughts begin to submerge our very being.

The ability to take a step back and observe what’s going on and attending to our needs in the same way we expect from others defines the core of self-compassion.

Why do Self-criticism and Shame Hurt Us?

We learn to move through our lives, anticipating rewards and dodging punishments.

Growing up, our parents, teachers, and friends teach us how to function in this world.

The experiences in early life become the guiding light for the rest of the years.

However, not all paths are right to tread on. 

The punitive voices and actions of others, the mistreatments we faced not only affect us, but they also become a part of who we are.

We become self-critical for every imperfection, struggle, and failure before anyone else could evaluate or pass a judgment.

To keep ourselves safe, we begin to shut ourselves from the rest of the world to avoid any future pain. We begin to punish ourselves.

The hurt and shame of the inability to lead a “normal” life fuels the vicious cycle of self-criticism, pain and suffering. Our compassionate self becomes invisible, impotent.

The world and its people become a threat to our well-being and survival.

The Need to Be Self-compassionate

As long as we are alive, no human is untouched by the harsh reality of life.

Thus, having the right skills to cope with the dark turns becomes vital for our survival.

Research shows that those with a higher level of self-compassion have enhanced well-being and enjoy many health benefits. It’s not that they don’t get depressed or feel demotivated, but they find themselves doing better than the self-critical ones and stay positive when life gets tough. Overall, they score higher on happiness and life satisfaction.

How to Cultivate Self-Compassion?

It’s normal to stay out of touch with our compassionate self when those closest to us didn’t leave any chance to make us feel rejected, unworthy and unloved.

However, blaming ourselves for the things which didn’t go as planned, expected or desired, does little to soothe our souls.

By learning to recognise our sufferings and giving ourselves the kindness and help we deserve, we can learn to relieve some of our agonies.

Here are some ways you can learn to practice and cultivate self-compassion and get out of the vicious cycle of self-criticism.

1. Listen to Yourself and Take A Compassion Break

It’s easy to get caught up with the perceived threat and spend the time fighting it and saving yourself.

One of the ways to develop self-compassion is to lend an ear to yourself.

Being mindful of your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and behaviours can give you an insight into your suffering. Recognising and locating the hurt is the first step towards developing self-compassion. 

All of us make mistakes and do things we shouldn’t. It creates shame, anxiety, fear, and anger, among other negative emotions.

Taking some time to sit with yourself and observing what’s going inside, you could make yourself aware of your suffering. As our best friend would do, face yourself with kindness without being critical. 

Related: How to Become Your Own Best Friend

2. Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone 

Each of us is a part of this humanity. Our life is a shared human experience. It might feel very lonely struggling with all the negative emotions.

The truth is everyone suffers.

Being aware of this can help us embrace our imperfections and create a space to breathe as we are. 

3. Encourage Yourself to Change

A compassionate friend listens to your problems and encourages you to make a positive change in your life.

Similarly, by choosing to be there for yourself with kindness and words of encouragement to help yourself, you can practice self-compassion.

Conclusion- How to Cultivate Self-Compassion

Life isn’t a bed of roses, and sometimes it can hit hard enough to deflate our spirits.

In moments of powerlessness and self-criticism, the world can feel like a difficult place.

A little self-compassion can work wonders for our existence. By learning to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, choosing to hold ourselves gently and reminding ourselves of humanity’s frailties, we can start our journey to self-compassion. 

Recommended Reading: Works of Kristen Neff

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