By Sarah Spitz, LMSW
Whether you are single, dating, or in a relationship, most of us could use some more love and compassion for ourselves. I work with many clients on developing more self-compassion, and while it may seem simple to start being kinder to yourself, it is actually quite difficult! After experiencing a failure or disappointment , I often ask my clients how they would talk to someone who was in a similar situation as them. And a majority of the time they would never speak to someone else the way they speak to themselves.
Dr. Kristen Neff researches self-compassion, and she explains that having compassion for yourself is no different from having self-compassion towards others. She says that "instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings." I understand that this is definitely easier said than done, but it's important to remember that you, just like everyone else, are deserving of love and kindness. So what better time to think about cultivating some self-compassion than on Valentine's Day?
Here are some ways to help you get started:
Be Your Own Best Friend
After experiencing a perceived failure you may find your self beginning to think thoughts such as, "why I am I so stupid..." or "I am never going to be successful..." Instead of continuing with those streams of thought, see if you can take a moment to be your own best friend. Pretend that your friend just had the same experience as you and imagine what you would say to them. For example, you may say something along the lines of, "I can see that you are very frustrated/upset/disappointed, but you tried your best and this isn't indicative of your future success..." While this may seem forced at first, remember that self-compassion takes practice!
Meditation is another great way to begin cultivating self-compassion. This could look like taking a few minutes each day to focus on the breath, or it could be a guided compassionate body scan. Kristin Neff has some great self-compassion meditations that you can download directly from her site.
Many of us struggle with saying "no," which can leave us feeling resentful and depleted. Boundaries are an important part of self-compassion, because it means that we are recognizing that we are deserving of taking time and space for ourselves. (Also, when we set boundaries, it ultimately enables us to give back to others in a more authentic way).
While owning up to our mistakes is important, that does not mean that we have to punish ourselves. Having self-compassion means taking responsibility for our actions, but also practicing forgiveness. If we are able to do this, we can use our mistakes as learning opportunities to grow.
Remember, self-care is not selfish! Self-care means having compassion for our mind and body, and recognizing that we have value. Self-care can look different for everyone (getting more sleep, going to yoga, reading a good book, etc), and ultimately when we take care of ourselves, we are in a better position to help others.
How will you practice self-compassion this Valentine's Day?
Sarah Spitz, LMSW is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in cultivating self-compassion and increasing self-esteem, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.