Give yourself permission to be your own best friend.
Empathy, kindness, affection — most of us possess these qualities and yet struggle to love themselves.
Most of us are very good at directing their energy toward other people’s problems and yet seem to ignore their own.
You can only achieve true harmony and peace of mind when your kindness goes in both directions — outer as well as inner.
In other words, when you learn to love others as well as yourself (though as we’ll see, compassion is greater and more powerful than love).
And no, self compassion should not be limited to times in which we suffer. Self compassion is a powerful ally that can guide us throughout our whole life.
So that we can make the best decisions, for others and ourselves. So that we make mistakes and see them as an opportunity to learn rather than be too harsh with ourselves.
So that regardless of the highs and lows, there will always be a special person that helps us and does what’s best for us — the one you see in the mirror.
Compassion vs self compassion
If a close friend expressed disappointment, fear, sadness, or any other negative emotion for a recent event in their life, and asked for help, how would you respond to them?
Surely you wouldn’t tell them that it’s their fault, that they are too silly to understand, that they should “get real” or “deal with it”.
You would be kind (speak and act tactfully) and compassionate (feel sorry for them and use your empathy to try and help them out).
Why is it, then, that whenever we are at our lowest, or facing a seemingly overwhelming issue, we don’t use the same compassion toward our own self?
The obvious answer would be that it’s easier to fix a problem when you see it objectively, from the outside — and stress and anxiety make it very difficult to do so.
For example, if your friend is going through a breakup, clearly you are not as affected emotionally and so you can see their situation more objectively.
However, that’s not the only reason. Lack of self compassion can also be caused by lack of self love. Self love is actually quite rare.
We know the importance of helping others and yet often forget the importance of our own wellbeing. We know how to help and yet think asking for help is a weakness.
Self compassion is not self pity
Self compassion is awareness of your own problems (or unhelpful thoughts and feelings) and the positive attitude that works toward a solution.
Self pity is awareness of your own problems (or unhelpful thoughts and feelings) and the negative attitude that doesn’t just do anything but makes your situation worse.
Self pity is a bit like staring at a disturbing image. Unless you remove or replace the image, it would be better not to stare at all.
Awareness itself isn’t enough. Not to mention that those who indulge in self pity tend to exaggerate their own problems or even create new ones unconsciously.
Self pity is an example of how your mind can be your worst enemy; self compassion means turning your mind into an ally.
Benefits of self compassion
- Mental clarity and happiness. When you practice self compassion, your higher self carefully selects which thoughts/images should be given attention to, and which to ignore. Naturally this leads to a positive mood, even when things could be better.
- Willingness to make mistakes. They are often necessary, but we are often too afraid to make them. Why? Unless there are serious consequences, our own self esteem is at risk. But with self compassion, there is no need to protect it — you love and appreciate yourself regardless.
- Independence and freedom. Self compassion is that special friend that’s always there when you need them. Only, it’s you! You have a powerful guide within you; the key is to be aware of it and give yourself permission to use it rather than rely on others.
- Higher chances of success. If you have a big enough goal in your life, then it’s hard enough to achieve it — you don’t want to add any unnecessary stress by telling yourself you are not enough, that you can’t or shouldn’t do it. Self compassion can silence that voice.
Self compassion journal prompts
- Have you ever been too self-critical? Have you ever been harsh with yourself for no real reason? If so, can you simply forgive yourself for what you have or have not done?
- What tends to trigger your negative feelings and emotions? Is it your own thoughts? Is it someone else’s behavior? Also, notice when it tends to happen e.g. when you are tired.
- If you were your own best friend, what would you say to yourself? Would you obsess over what you lack or appreciate and focus on your unique strengths?
- Is there a problem you keep dwelling on? How important is it? Is it objectively important, or has it been exaggerated by your own attitude to it? Can you change your perspective?
- Are you afraid to ask for help? Could any of your current issues be fixed instantly if you just asked a few questions to someone you trust?
- What do you find hard to let go, including memories from the past and/or your past self? Do these things improve your life in any way? Would it be better to focus on the future instead?
- Think of the absolute best time (or times) of your life. Can you identify with that joyful, happy, vibrant version of you? Can you remind yourself each day that it is the highs, not the lows, that define you?
- False responsibility drains your enthusiasm. Is there anything in your life that you think you have to do even though you are free to ignore it? If so, are there feelings of guilt associated with it?