Self-compassion: Important to give yourself some lovin’

By Kelsey Bacharz, B.S

Celebrated this month, Valentine’s Day is a holiday notable for gifts of flowers, jewelry, and chocolates. It may be a happy occasion for those with partners, but one that others would like to skip entirely. Forget the stereotypes: Give yourself a little love by practicing self-compassion.

What is self-compassion?
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, the leading researcher on self-compassion, it is “being open to and moved by one’s own suffering, experiencing feelings of caring and kindness toward oneself, taking an understanding, nonjudgmental attitude toward one’s inadequacies and failures, and recognizing that one’s experience is part of the common human experience.”

In contrast with poor self-esteem or narcissism, self-compassion is not about trying to ignore or fix your perceived failures or shortcomings. Self-compassion is accepting that everyone deserves self-love, regardless of how they view themselves or others. Self-compassion is neither indulgent nor self-centered but rather, as writer Audre Lorde says, “an act of survival.”

How is it beneficial?
Think about a time when someone was kind to you and the warm, happy emotion you felt. When you are kind to yourself, you can experience the same positive feelings. Research has shown that having self-compassion also can increase overall well-being, job satisfaction, self-improvement motivation, and self-warmth. Increased self-compassion also is linked with decreased interpersonal conflict, burnout, depression, and anxiety.

How do you do it?
According to Dr. Neff, there are three main elements of self-compassion: self-kindness, sense of common humanity, and mindfulness. Practicing self-kindness can start by simply being aware of the way that you talk to yourself and not punishing yourself for making a mistake.

For example, if your new year’s resolution was to exercise more and you miss going to the gym one day, try saying, without judgment, “It’s okay, I will do better tomorrow,” rather than punishing yourself with negative self-talk (“I’m such a failure!”). Be mindful by neither ignoring nor exaggerating your feelings of failure.

Lastly, a person with a sense of common humanity recognizes that no one is perfect. Everyone experiences setbacks and disappointments, and you are not alone.

Resources
To learn more about self-compassion, see Self-Compassion, by Dr. Kristin Neff; The Gifts of Imperfection, by Dr. Brenè Brown; and A Year of Living with More Compassion, edited by Dr. Richard Fields. Additional resources are available online at http://www.self-compassion.org. For additional support related to self-compassion or other concerns, contact the UCCS Aging Center at 719-255-8002.

Kelsey Bacharz, B.S., is a clinical psychology master’s student at UCCS who is completing her practicum at the UCCS Aging Center. For more information, contact her at kbacharz@uccs.edu or call the Aging Center at 719-255-8002.

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