Life can be very challenging when a person is overly critical of themselves or lacks the ability to self-soothe. This can lead to an escalation of stress and anxiety, even when the situation itself is manageable. Facilities like West Coast Recovery Centers offer self-compassion classes to assist clients in building these skills. This article will discuss the importance of self-compassion and ways to start cultivating it.
What Is Self-Compassion?
When a person has compassion, it means they can recognize another’s suffering. This emotion can be the driving force that leads someone to help another. Some would agree that having the capacity to be sensitive in this way is an integral part of building strong social connections in families and communities.
Directing kindness towards one-self is called self-compassion. When a person has this quality, they take the initiative to care for their physical and emotional health. They work on their weaknesses without tearing themself down. Extending compassion to oneself is particularly important when a person has made a big mistake or failed at a meaningful endeavor.
Aspects of Self-Compassion
Some scholars have pulled ideas from Buddist philosophies to describe self-compassion.
Self-compassion can be thought of as having three core dimensions:
#1. Self-Kindness vs. Self-Judgment
In times of difficulty, understanding one’s plight can deter self-criticisms that can lower a person’s confidence and self-worth and serve as a form of comfort.
#2. Sense of Common Humanity vs. Isolation
Spiraling into a “why me” narrative can isolate someone from the reality that all people are flawed in some way. A person will come to accept challenges with greater ease as they recognize they are not alone.
#3. Mindfulness vs. Overidentification
Being mindful allows a person to see things more objectively. Emotions can cloud things from what they really are. Returning to the present moment can stop mindless ruminations.
Why Might a Person Lack Self-Compassion?
Someone may have little compassion for themselves due to unhealthy family dynamics that took hold during childhood. When a parent ignores or invalidates their child’s feelings and experiences, that child may not establish a healthy identity and sense of self-worth. Thus, they see no reason to be kind to themselves.
Challenges in Adulthood
Without the unconditional love of a parental figure, they may grow up to believe they don’t deserve the attention of others. They feel that they are unloveable and their achievements will never be good enough. This unsteady state of mind can set someone up for persisting features of intrapersonal instability like:
- Harsh self-criticisms and judgment
- Extreme fear of judgment by others
- Avoidance of success out of fear of failure
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, and guilt
- Extreme character traits like overachieving or underachieving
Some mental health disorders and personality disorders are rooted in these issues, such as anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and borderline personality disorder.
What Are the Benefits of Acquiring this Trait?
In short, learning how to be kind to oneself builds resilience to future conflicts regarding one’s incompetencies. It provides the mental and emotional tools to be more flexible in situations threatening one’s self-esteem.
Improving Mental Health & Wellness
Across the literature, self-compassion has been shown to support higher levels of self-esteem and improve mental health outcomes and quality of life.
When self-esteem is low because of a mistake, loving-kindness turned inwards can buffer against negative emotions. Individuals with this attribute don’t harass themselves, so they are more equipped to admit when they are wrong and change unhealthy behavior. They are more open to growing to meet their own needs, but not for the love or acceptance of others. This allows a person to excel in life, whether it be professionally or personally.
How Can Someone Be More Loving?
Anyone can learn to be more loving towards themselves. All it takes is an open mind, patience, and willingness to get started.
Some ways to cultivate self-compassion include:
Forgiving oneself for past mistakes while taking steps toward self-improvement acknowledges the fact that everyone makes mistakes, even life-altering ones. Opening oneself up to this process can be empowering, and spark the motivation to heal.
Forgiving oneself means accepting the wrongs they have committed, as well as the role they have played in their own suffering. Acceptance is the opposite of resistance, an experience that can limit a person’s healing.
By continuously turning one’s attention to the present moment, mental space can be created to process thoughts and behaviors more clearly. It gives a person the chance to be kind to themselves, rather than get swept up in judgemental patterns of thinking. Mindfulness creates the opportunity to question these patterns.
In times of distress, retreating to one’s internal safe space can bring a sense of calm and security. This can be achieved by talking to oneself in a soothing manner like a nurturing mother or father would to their child. This self-assuring practice helps a person find peace and stability even when things are rocky.
When a person has compassion for themself, it means an emotionally safe space exists inside them. They can accept the mistakes they have made or the things they have failed at. Learning self-compassion has become an important intervention in mental health and addiction treatment programs. West Coast Recovery Centers is a treatment center for adults with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health conditions. Our programs are accredited by the Joint Commission to provide two levels of care: intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization. We understand the damage that early childhood experiences can have. Subsequent mental health disorders and substance abuse put a serious toll on a person’s quality of life. Our self-compassion classes equip clients with skills to apply emotional flexibility in situations that threaten their sense of self. Call (760) 492-6509 to learn how you can cultivate a loving-kindness for yourself.