Self compassion sounds simple when we say it out loud to ourselves, but it can be quite difficult in practice

What do you think of when you hear the word self-compassion? Does it feel familiar or distant from your life? Self compassion sounds simple when we say it out loud to ourselves, but it can be quite difficult in practice. I am willing to bet that many of those who are reading this post struggle with being compassionate to themself and perhaps fall into the trap of talking to oneself negatively or in a way that lacks kindness. 

So, what is self compassion then?

First, we must understand compassion itself. Compassion has to do with noticing suffering and feeling compelled to sit with and relieve that suffering. To be compassionate means that we are tuned into the emotional depth of what it means to be human. If you have ever sat with a loved one and supported them while they’ve cried on your shoulder and shared difficult news, you have already practiced compassion. It is likely that you have practiced compassion frequently in your life with those around you; how often do you extend that same compassion to yourself?

What is to be self-compassionate?

To be self-compassionate means that you are extending that kind, nurturing, and gentle part of yourself to your own suffering by offering love and understanding. Self compassion may look like speaking with kindness to yourself, adjusting your self-expectations, and being gentle and patient when you make mistakes or stumble. But self compassion is difficult and hard, and it takes practice. 

To be human is to be flawed, and yet, we are taught that flaws are ugly and unspeakable parts of ourselves that we should spend considerable energy covering up and running away from. We may not be told to erase those flaws exactly in those words, but we are shown from a young age that flaws and the things that make us, us, are not always welcome and sometimes even shunned or made fun of.

So, often we begin making those “flaws” or unwanted parts of ourselves small. Maybe you try to change them, and if that doesn’t work, maybe you try to hide them and cover them up as best you can, and if THAT doesn’t work, maybe you begin disliking yourself for not being able to be less of whatever that unappealing part of yourself is. Ouch, right? 

Whether we realize it or not, we often spend a lot of time trying to be the perfect version of ourselves. I know I have spent much of my life attempting to erase aspects of myself and fill them with more palatable versions of me. The endless scrolling through socials and inevitable comparisons to other peoples’ lives, of which, I’m only getting to see a small fraction of anyway.

Quickly, we get swept away by our insecurities and perceived inadequacies. We long for someone to come into our lives and see us fully, cherish us, and celebrate us for what we are and what we bring to the table. But the difficult truth is that we can’t hold other people responsible for feeling good about ourselves or picking us up when we fall. Of course, we hope and expect to have people or a person who do that for us sometimes, but we cannot expect that they will always be able to do that. That’s where self compassion can come in. You can be that person for yourself, with practice and conscious intent. 

I have been working on my own self compassion for years and I still struggle with it at times. But since I have made an active effort to bring self compassion into my life, I am able to recover more quickly and with grace from the inevitable bumps and difficulties life brings. If you want to start incorporating more self compassion, I encourage you to reflect on the ways you speak to yourself and ask yourself what expectations are being carried with you and whether those expectations are realistic and fair. Think of yourself in third person, as a friend, and then speak to yourself how you would speak to your very best friend and let them know how much you love them regularly. It may sound cheesy, but you may be surprised just how impactful it can be.