In the moment of suffering, how do you deal with stressful experiences? Have you tried to ignore your experiences and feelings? Do you tend to be very critical of yourself? Have you heard about cultivating self-compassion?
When we take a compassionate stance towards ourselves when dealing with distressing experiences, we are practicing self-compassion. Studies indicated that increased levels of self-compassion are associated with increased psychological well-being.
Self-compassion consists of three pairs of components: self-kindness versus self-judgment, common humanity versus isolation, and mindfulness versus over-identification.
- Self-kindness is the ability to offer kindness, patience, and understanding rather than being judgmental or harsh to ourselves during times of perceived suffering, failure and inadequacy.
- Common humanity emphasizes that all human beings are imperfect and may engage in unhealthy behaviors when facing negative life events. When we are able to connect with people with similar experience, it decreased the sense of loneliness or isolation.
- Mindfulness entails the awareness of the present moment. Rather than worrying about the future or dwelling onto the past, we are able to live in the present moment and be consistent with our values.
During difficult periods, if we are engaging in negative self-judging behaviors and attitudes, it may lead to over-identification with our short-comings. As a result of the over-identification, we may feel isolated because we are unable to understand that everyone goes through this similar process. Through the practice of self-compassion, we learn to acknowledge that life is imperfect when facing life challenges. Instead of ignoring or engaging in rumination of our shortcomings, we approach our personal flaws and shortcomings in a balanced manner during difficult situations. Additionally, we learn to adopt a healthy and positive attitude toward solving problems in life and showing affection to ourselves. When interacting with others, we are able to relate or empathize with the experiences of other people.
Practicing self-compassion can be easy but challenging, especially if you are used to being critical of yourself. Can you think about when you are not critical and when you are able to extend that compassion towards yourself? For instance, having a lower expectation of yourself or allowing yourself to have a break. These small actions, as simple as they may be, help cultivate a sense of self-compassion.
“With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience.” (Neff, 2019)
Dr. Ting Huay Ooi
Barnard, L. K., & Curry, J. F. (2011). Self-compassion: Conceptualizations, correlates, & interventions. Review of General Psychology, 15(4), 289-303.
Neff, K. D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure Self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223–250. doi:10.1080/15298860390209035
Neff, K.D. (2019). Tips for Practice. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/tips-for-practice/
Neff, K. D., Kirkpatrick, K. L., & Rude, S. S. (2007). Self-compassion and adaptive psychological functioning. Journal of Research in Personality, 41, 139–154. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2006.03.004