In our last post, we talked about the ability to practice self-compassion as a starting point for practicing overall compassion. But we didn’t really dive into how to do that.
For some folks, self-compassion comes naturally. They don’t judge their shortcomings, recognize failure as a shared experience, and take a balanced approach to negative emotions.
Fortunately for the rest of us, there are ways to tap into self-compassion.
How to Practice Self-Compassion
People with high levels of self-compassion seem to have the magic formula for not letting negative emotions take over. For the rest of us, this is more challenging.
In fact, right now in this moment, you might be beating yourself up for not having a natural ability to practice self-compassion! See the vicious cycle? It’s a slippery slope.
You CAN strengthen your propensity for self-compassion though. Here are five ways to begin.
1. Stop “Shoulding” All Over Yourself
Most of us have some idea of who we “should” be. This idea is typically based on conditioning. So, for example, if you were repeatedly told (and it was demonstrated to you) that feelings are wrong, you may be quick to think “I shouldn’t be angry” or “I shouldn’t be sad.”
We’re also conditioned by societal expectations. If you’re a man, you may feel that you ‘should’ be a good provider. Women often feel they ‘should’ want to have children. These are just two of many examples. And folks who don’t match these societal ideals can feel flawed.
Here’s the deal though. Everyone is different. It’s okay. It’s great. It’s wonderful. So when you can catch yourself ‘shoulding’ all over yourself because you don’t match what everyone else is doing, remember that EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT.
Then you can begin to work on accepting yourself for who you are. This doesn’t mean you have to love everything about yourself. It’s more about digging who you are rather than lamenting about who you aren’t.
2. Comfort Yourself
The value of physical touch should not be underestimated. And the cool thing is, in generating self-compassion, the touch doesn’t even have to come from another person.
When you’re having a particularly difficult time accessing self-compassion, one of the easiest shortcuts is to simply place one hand on top of your other forearm.
Maybe even apply a little pressure. When you notice the warmth and gentleness of the touch, it can elicit the same feelings you have when providing care for another in need of compassion.
If you’re somewhere where you can place one or both hands on your heart, that can be especially nurturing. You may accompany this gesture with a compassionate statement such as, “Yes, this is a struggle. It’s okay that I feel sad (or whatever emotion).”
It may not sound like much, but it’s powerful.
3. Practice “Just Like Me”
We all have feelings and needs. Being able to recognize your own and understanding how to support yourself when in the throes of them is an exercise in self-compassion. One of the most effective ways to do this is to write about your inner experience in a journal to help clarify and illustrate what’s happening.
This will also help you when working toward having compassion for others.
Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön speaks fondly of the Buddhist meditation practice known as “Just like me.” It’s a recognition of the shared human experience. A bit of the “we’re all in this together” mentality. So, for example, in a traffic jam she might look at a fellow driver and say, “Just like me, he probably has somewhere to be and is feeling frustrated.” If you want to reframe this meditation as a practice in self-compassion, you might say, “Just like him, I am feeling impatient with this situation but I know I’m not alone.”
We all want to be acknowledged and validated.
4. Let It RAIN
Mindfulness is so much more than a buzzword. It’s reframing your perspective and accepting your thoughts and feelings. And this naturally breeds self-compassion.
One of the most widely known self-compassion practices was developed by meditation teacher Tara Brach and it’s rooted in mindfulness. She calls the practice RAIN, which is an acronym for the following:
Recognize what’s happening
Allow the experience, just as it is
Investigate with curiosity, care, and interest
Nurture with mindful self-compassion
These are all components of mindfulness and they require taking a step back from your thoughts and emotions in order to view them objectively. If that’s confusing, consider how you see others’ thoughts and feelings and try to see your own that way – logically and from a distance. This will diminish their power.
That way, they can’t take the wheel and drive you off an emotional cliff.
5. Accept the Perfection of Imperfection
When you’re constantly viewing all of your mistakes and foibles under a microscope, you’re bound to get tunnel vision. And that makes it hard to remember that EVERYONE makes mistakes.
We all have insecurities. And just as you can’t escape yours, neither can anybody else. This is part of the human condition.
You’re going to have bad days, lose your temper, and make mistakes. Once you recognize that these struggles are just a part of life, you can more easily give yourself permission to feel self-compassion rather than rail on yourself.
No matter what your shortcomings.
Seeking More Guidance In Your Life?
Whether you’re looking for additional ways to practice self-compassion or just want more peace in your life, we’re here for you.
Contact us today to find out more about our mindfulness practices and life coaching services that will put you on the path toward your authentic self.
Once you make self-compassion a regular practice, you’ll be amazed at how it ripples outward.